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For The Record

Presumption of Guilt?

Original Air Date: 10/30/2007

Jurors about to considering the charges against a defendant are instructed to presume a defendant is innocent. The prosecution must prove a defendant is guilty of the crimes he’s been charged with, not the other way around. That “presumption of innocence” is a brick in the foundation of American law, and yet it is not specifically written into the U.S. or Alabama Constitutions. On Tuesday, October 30th at 8:00 pm, an APT “For The Record – Focus” presentation will examine that presumption, including the case of an Alabama man charged with sexual crimes against children. The defendant says he was immediately treated as guilty in some media reports. Nationally, the Duke Lacrosse, O.J. Simpson, Richard Jewell and most recently, the Michael Vick cases were all grist for the media mill. Were the defendants afforded that presumption of innocence or treated as guilty from the beginning? We’ll explore the question of guilt and innocence with a potential Alabama jury pool…is there bias against defendants? And should reporters and the general public join jurors in presuming innocence? We’ll talk with journalists and journalism students, with defense attorneys and prosecutors, about whether the media sometimes creates a “presumption of guilt” for Alabamians charged with crimes.

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