Innocent until proven guilty is a widely mis-used phrase. There is no duty in US law to believe that someone is innocent until sufficient proof has been produced. Otherwise we’d never arrest anyone unless we were 100% sure they were guilty. Probable cause means we have every right to suspect someone who has given us reason to do so. Innocent until proven guilty only refers to who has the burden of persuasion in a trial.

“We arrest and indict those for whom we have probable cause to believe deserve to be arrested and indicted. We come to that conclusion after thorough investigation and analysis of evidence. It is via this level of due process that we can be reasonably assured that those who are standing trial deserve to be there although they do not bear the burden of proving their own innocence. Rather, the burden of proof of guilt lies with the prosecution.”

People go to prison on circumstantial evidence all the time and I’ve never once suggested that anyone should be jailed without due process. You’ve brought that up repeatedly in discussions of this topic and yet it’s something that just doesn’t happen — at least not in the US. What does happen however, is that out of 1000 rapes, only 9 ever get prosecuted and only 5 perpetrators ever get incarcerated. Rectifying that injustice is a much more important place to focus, I believe.

“Is circumstantial evidence enough to convict someone at trial?

If someone is accused of stealing money and all they have is circumstantial evidence. no eye witnesses, no video footage or hard evidence, is it enough for the court/jury to find the person guilty at trial?

Yes. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to convict someone. The question to the jury will be did the State prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt? It will come down to what is the actual evidence and can there be interpretations of the evidence other than that the accused committed a crime. The defense attorney will likely question the State’s witnesses about other possible interpretations of the evidence. What those questions will be will depend on the exact nature of the evidence.

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And in the case of sexual violence, we know a lot about what kinds of people make false accusations under what kinds of circumstances. We also know that false accusations are rare. Just as with the allegation of any other crime, we should begin by believing the accuser until investigation shows that we shouldn’t.

There’s a big difference between pulling you over and convicting you of something. Due process is critical, but in many instances we don’t have that now. It’s only recently after a huge hue and cry that the enormous backlog of unprocessed rape kits is finally beginning to be addressed. And then there’s all the erroneous cultural narratives to be overcome……….

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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