What are the historical origins of “Presumed Innocent” and “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” in US
Posted: 29 July 2007 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  285
Joined  2007-02-23

In the US we hear the phrases “Presumed Innocent” and “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” almost daily.  Wiki, with the usual disclaimers of course, says that “Presumed Innocent” is in the Canadian Constitution and that something like “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” is in the French Constitution and that these phrases in the US are “widely held to follow from the 5th, 6th and 14th amendments. See also Coffin v. United States”

Do we know when the literal words came into usage in what is now the US?

Posted: 29 July 2007 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  3090
Joined  2007-01-30

OED has this.

1730 W. FORBES Instit. of Law of Scotl. II. i. 111 The Presumption of Innocence lies in Favour of the Deceast, that he was deceitfully killed. 1820 N. Amer. Rev. July 122 There are several cases in which persons charged with manslaughter have been bailed, where there has been no presumption of innocence. 1849 J. P. KENNEDY Mem. Life of William Wirt (1851) II. xvii. 283 The accused having..the legal presumption of innocence on his side, must continue to be presumed innocent until some act shall be adduced which is entirely inconsistent with such presumption, and consistent only with the presumption of guilt.

Posted: 29 July 2007 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  170
Joined  2007-02-14

The concept is much older than that. 

In Coffin v. U.S., 156 U.S. 432 (1895), the U.S. Supreme Court refers to the presumption of innocence as “undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary” and traces it back with concrete examples (including quotes from Julius Caesar) to Roman law.  Commentators have found antecedants that are much older.  In Leonard W. Levy, Origins of the Fifth Amendment 433-34 (1968), the author asserts that the Talmud requires that “The accused [is] presumed innocent until the proof of his guilt [is] demonstrated as a certainty by evidence that [is] exact, consistent in all important respects, and beyond any doubt.”

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