The most important constitutional right in the US criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. The Supreme Court has repeatedly cautioned lower courts in the United States that juries must be properly instructed that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. This is the origin of the “beyond all reasonable doubt” standard of proof and is an instruction given to juries in each criminal case. The Fifth Amendment notes the right of “due process” in federal proceedings, and the Fourteenth Amendment requires that each state provide “due process” to defendants.
The US Constitution provides several important protections for criminal defendants, including a prohibition on the use of evidence that has been obtained by unconstitutional means. This would include evidence seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment and confessions obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
- Do you think it is useful to have a presumption of innocence in criminal cases? What if there were not a presumption of innocence in criminal cases?
- Do you think public humiliation, public execution, and unusual punishments would reduce the amount of crime? Why do you think so?
- “Due process” is another phrase for “fairness.” Why should the public show fairness toward criminal defendants?