This weekend I watched a classic movie, 5 Card Stud, starring Robert Mitchum. In the 1968 Western, Mitchum portrays a “preacher” who comes to a small town near Denver, Colorado to exact revenge from a lynch mob who killed his brother for cheating at a five-card stud poker game.
Apparently, none of this “old west justice” went through the legal system. The result was the killing of the entire lynch mob and then the killing of the vigilante “preacher.” As usual, only Dean Martin remained standing, which makes sense since he had to sing the theme song at the end.
How Does that Mentality Relate to Today's World?
Most people today assume a person charged with a crime is guilty before their case is even heard in court. It starts with the fact that people have their mug shots placed on the Internet for all to see. In cases more sensational or repulsive, the news media prosecutes the accused via television and online. In DUI cases, people start out with such an emotional revulsion; due process is only possible when the accused proves their innocence, not when the State proves their guilt.
Our memories are short. We forget countless innocent people when we see the next person charged with a crime. Very often we hear the mob cry for the head of the next accused person without first making the State prove that person guilty at trial. Even though juries are instructed that it is the State's burden to prove a case, individual jurors tell me after a trial that they were troubled the accused did not testify and explain their action. Jurors are specifically instructed not to infer anything from the defendant's silence, yet they often believe that person has something to hide. It is as if civics and social studies classes are no longer taught.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty:
What sets our system apart from all others is the idea that a person remains innocent until the State proves their case through proper evidence, beyond all reasonable doubt. This simple concept has kept our government in check for more than 200 years. Our founders were brilliant indeed.