One of the things that has always bothered me about the American jurisprudence system is the notion that the accused are presumed innocent. The fallacy of this notion starts from the moment the accused is chained from hands to ankles, like a criminal, and made to stagger into the court room.

The recent events surrounding the arrest of Aaron Hernandez for an alleged murder, clearly demonstrates the fallacy of “innocent until proven guilty”. Although the news media dances around the notion of innocence by using words such as “alleged” it nonetheless uses headlines and imagery designed to satisfy the viewer’s hunger for salacious gossip about those they perceive to be better than them. Google “Aaron Hernandez” and the results are a mixture of arrest photos and commentary intermingled with his football prowess.

The news media is a business driven by the eyes it generates to its vehicle and the fact is that gossip attracts while real news is, well boring to most. As a business I cannot fault them for creating the necessary content to drop eyeballs on the advertising they live off, of. That is the necessity of having a market-driven news media.

My problem is with the government and especially the legal process. The notion is that the accused is that, an accused, in where the government must prove their guilt. The fact is that Aaron Hernandez is accused of murder and has yet to be proven guilty. At this point, only he knows if he is guilty or not. But the legal system has already chained him up and paraded him before the cameras. The legal system has already incarcerated him, like a criminal. The legal system has already punitively applied sanctions like bail hearings and jailing him for an alleged crime, all the while pretending he is “innocent”.

The prosecutors, who as the notion of innocence demands are supposed to be looking for the truth, to “serve justice”, are instead pontificating that Hernandez “orchestrated an execution”.

How is justice being served when the prosecutors have already made up their minds?

The fact is that I do not know anything about Aaron Hernandez, his football career or the crime he is accused of committing so my comments have nothing to do on whether he committed this crime or not but rather on how the systems, which advocates “innocent until proven guilty” is obviously not subscribing to that notion.

More importantly, the community at large has already convicted him. Take for example the University of Florida taking the unilateral decision to removing all references to Hernandez. How is that a presumption of innocence?

The American jurisprudence system is designed to bring together three bodies before a neutral party, the judge, to determine the guilt of the accused. Contrary to popular culture, a trial is only to determine guilt, and not innocence. The three bodies are the prosecutors, the defense and the jury. Under the system, the purpose of the prosecution should be about finding the truth and not about stifling public outcry as they did in the Zimmerman trial. To get to the truth, the prosecution is supposed look for the facts in the case and let the facts lead them to a conclusion. The prosecution is not supposed to look for evidence that leads them to a predisposed conclusion. How is the Hernandez’ prosecutors serving this notion when they publicly castigate Hernandez before all of the evidence has been collected?

More importantly, how can Aaron Hernandez expect to be “presumed innocent” when he has already been chained, jailed and publicly castigated for an alleged crime? And how is a jury of peers supposed to determine his guilt if the community at large, including the judicial system has already convicted him?

The American jurisprudence system is not about “innocent until proven guilty”.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

One reply on “Presumption of Innocence is a Fallacy in American Jurisprudence: The Aaron Hernandez Case”

  1. In the words of the great Denzel Washington’s character in the picture, Training Day, where he played Detective Alonzo Harris, “It’s not what you know, but what you can prove.”

    My grandfather, a semi-pro baseball players in Juarez, Mexico, “back in the day,” always told me television ruined baseball. Back in those days, we listened to baseball on the radio — mostly. However, when it was on network TV, he acquiesced and allowed the tube to broadcast a World Series, for instance The Boston Past Time; “Alzheimer’s Brings My Red Sox Memories Back” by Javier E. Najera, Revived Red Sox fan in Texas.

    He used to say, God rest his soul, “People who watch baseball on TV pass judgement on players and plays they have no business commenting on.” He was a baseball purist.

    Then, there’s the perception thing. Locally, Tony Romo gets NO slack on behalf of the frustrated Cowboys fans, who want nothing less than a sixth Lombardy trophy. Though he considers perception to be overrated, it is that very thing — perception — which has caused him massive headaches with the media and fans.

    I drafted Aaron Hernandez to my fantasy league, given his potential. And, even in my fantasy world his perception amongst my peers and fellow fantasy players was not good. “He’s got all those tattoos,” they kept telling me. He might be in trouble before the season is out, and you’ll be stuck with little option at tight end.

    And, that is in a literal fantasy world! The instant modes of media do sway much of what is perceived to be reality or not. There’s no way to avoid it.

    I’m still thankful, however, we live in a country which allegedly gives you the presumption of innocence and a day in court. I realize jurors (and God forbid) judges may be swayed by the popular opinion. And, I realize your legal representation depends much on what you are able to afford.

    Like you, I know nothing about Aaron, save his stats last year and what he did for my fantasy team. I know now he is a kid who made it from a tough neighborhood in Bristol and had the world in his hands.

    People can judge all they want. We can only hope Lady Justice still has a cover over her eyes.

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