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  1. #1

    Default Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Many people claim that the argument that a person is Innocent Until Proven Guilty is argumentum ad ignorantiam. [1] A person who is presumed innocent may indeed end up guilty after the evidence shows them guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, but I disagree this proves Innocent Until Proven Guilty is argumentum ad ignorantiam.

    The main principle of argumentum ad ignorantiam is when a person uses a negative claim for evidence as support of a positive claim. To argue a person is innocent because they have not been proven guilty is not evidence of innocence; just as well, to argue a person is guilty because they have not been proven innocent is not evidence of guilt. The previous two arguments claim the other side has not been supported (negative claim), so the opposite is true (positive claim).

    Innocence is the term used before the evidence is viewed. I think it is misleading for two reasons: (1) a person cannot know guilt unless they see evidence that proves guilt, and (2) there is a difference between legal innocence and actual innocence. Because of this, the term innocence takes on different meanings based upon the context it is used.

    Innocence before the evidence is viewed means a person is charged with a crime, but the charges have not been supported by evidence in front of those who will make a consensual judgment of the evidence.

    Innocence after viewing the evidence means the evidence doesn’t support the charge.

    Actual innocence means the person really didn’t do it, even if the criteria for evidence creates a circumstance where guilt is found.

    Due to the ambiguity of the term innocence one may get confused with its intended meaning in multiple contexts. It is not argumentum ad ignorantiam, because what is meant by the term is to say a person has been charged and the charges will be attempted to be supported by evidence. That is all that can be said in a positive sense, because making a legal or actual claim of innocence would be argumentum ad ignorantiam.

    What is your view on the argument that Innocent Until Proven Guilty is argumentum ad ignorantiam?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Although NOT listed in you link, this layman's reasoning is similar to the law's counter reasoning:


    "Ignorantia juris non excusat or Ignorantia legis neminem excusat"

    Ignorance of the law does not excuse one. But it actually can in some situations.

    The USSC has ruled that a court MUST instruct a jury that the defendant is "innocent until proven guilty", a Kentucky case. Without looking I can't cite it though. However a failure to do so is NOT "in and of itself" reversible error.

    You will find self represented criminals, as well as defense attorneys, will proffer law that has no rational basis, but if they know there is a chance, they will try.

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Okay, I found the cases, both from KY appeals:

    Taylor v. Kentucky:

    http://supreme.justia.com/us/436/478/




    Whorton, expanding on Taylor:

    Held: The Kentucky Supreme Court erred in interpreting Taylor, supra, as holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment absolutely requires that an instruction on the presumption of innocence must be given in every criminal case. The failure to give such an instruction when requested does not, in and of itself, violate the Constitution. Under Taylor, such a failure must be evaluated in light of the totality of the circumstances -- including all the instructions, the arguments of counsel, whether the weight of the evidence was overwhelming, and other relevant factors -- to determine whether the defendant received a constitutionally fair trial.


    http://supreme.justia.com/us/441/786/case.html

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Further, all a defendant has to provide the jury is "reasonable doubt". In other words, not proof of innocence but merely proof innocence is possible.

    That is a significant point.

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    It is logically impossible to prove a negative. Except in court.

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Quote Quoting cyjeff
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    It is logically impossible to prove a negative. Except in court.


    How about a "negative pregnant" as a twist on it. I have seen this term in my Law dictionary.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_pregnant

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Quote Quoting cyjeff
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    Further, all a defendant has to provide the jury is "reasonable doubt". In other words, not proof of innocence but merely proof innocence is possible.

    That is a significant point.
    Thst's why MOST states mandate a unanimous verdict. The SC has ruled they can have a minimum of 6 jurors, but then it must be unanimous. Otherwise on juries over 6, if any still have it, I think a few do for minor crimes, states are free to have any # they wish to concur.

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    Although NOT listed in you link, this layman's reasoning is similar to the law's counter reasoning:


    "Ignorantia juris non excusat or Ignorantia legis neminem excusat"

    Ignorance of the law does not excuse one. But it actually can in some situations.
    I can see this rule makes sense if you are given a driving test, and then break the law.

    If a law is not taught to a person through civil education, then it cannot be expected they should know it. If the unapproved conduct harms a person, it would make sense that a noneducated person has no excuse. If the conduct does no harm, then punishment is unreasonable. A rational person should not be expected to arbitrarly forbid themselves from harmless conduct, when they have not been instructed that the conduct is unapproved by law.

    When a court approves punishment for harmless behavior, they have become criminal themselves.

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Quote Quoting cyjeff
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    Further, all a defendant has to provide the jury is "reasonable doubt". In other words, not proof of innocence but merely proof innocence is possible.

    That is a significant point.
    That's the way the system was designed. However, you can find reasonable doubt in atleast 40% of criminal cases. Just go to your local courthouse and look through some of the cases.
    The only man that it is ok for another man to love is Jesus.

    When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandfather did, in his sleep -- not screaming, like the passengers in his car.

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    Default Re: Is Innocent Till Proven Guilty a Fallacy

    Quote Quoting empiricalskeptic
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    I can see this rule makes sense if you are given a driving test, and then break the law.

    If a law is not taught to a person through civil education, then it cannot be expected they should know it. If the unapproved conduct harms a person, it would make sense that a noneducated person has no excuse. If the conduct does no harm, then punishment is unreasonable. A rational person should not be expected to arbitrarly forbid themselves from harmless conduct, when they have not been instructed that the conduct is unapproved by law.

    When a court approves punishment for harmless behavior, they have become criminal themselves.
    That's why there are varying degrees of offenses.

    The SC has also ruled a person can not be held criminally liable for a law that is so archaic and hard to understand a "reasonably prudent" person would have no idea what they are doing is against any law.

    A "reasonably prudent" person would know certain actions are against public policy, and no "notice requirement" is necessary as a possible Due Process concern.

    In other words, a person of ordinary intelligence knows kidnapping is against the law, it need not be taught in school or a need to be given notice by the govt.

    The 8th AM also forbids punishment that is not proportional to a crime. In other words, it would be UNconstitutional to give a person 20 years for running a red light, etc., etc.

    Take for instance traffic offenses. If we adopt the prudent person doctrine, can one say "now how would a person know that was possibly illegal"?

    I do not know every municipal ordinance in my city, nor does anyone in thier respective cities I would safely say.

    So, yes, it is possible to violate a law and have no idea you are, no argument here. I have never read any traffic offense that is facially ambiguous so a person driving would say they are confused as to what it means?

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