ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

You'd think this was a new concept - but it is how our body of law has been created. Yet, over and over again I see examples of the presumption of guilt.

  • Investigators looking only to confirm the point of view that the person alleged to have done something wrong is indeed guilty - ignoring all information that would provide an alternative point of view.
  • Homeowner's associations, particularly mine, who listen to a complaint and without investigating it, send a sanctioning notice to the persoin being complained about.
  • People on jury's saying "I know he is guilty, because the case wouldn't have gotten this far if he was not guilty."
  • A willingness - maybe even an eagerness - to listen to bad things about others and automatically assume they are true - yet on the other hand we look for the feet of clay for anyone held up as a hero - or good guy.

When I testified in court years ago, the judges I knew tried to stay neutral. When I teach alternative dispute resolution, investigations of allegations, prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination, and other similar courses, I repeat over and over again "The Tendency is to believe the first person who comes into your office. You must resist that tendency".

Can we please go back to an American society wherein we believe person to be innocent until proven guilty - and not jump to unjustified conclusions?

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  • At 6:55 PM, Anonymous Stephanie West Allen said…

    Hi, ArLyne, and thanks for the e-mail inviting me to your blog. Glad to see you are blogging and I will of course add you to my Google reader right away. I invite you to read a related post at my blog. The post is called Wrong? Me? No way! That's not how I see it. It is at

  • At 10:19 PM, Blogger ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D. said…

    Stephanie, thanks so much for responding. Yes, I'll read yours - this might be a great way to stay in touch - through our commonality of ideas.


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