If judges are that illiterate as to the concept of the presumption of innocence, what can be said about the public, especially during our Internet and especially social networking age.
Here are some comments from Facebook as to what needed to be done immediately to criminal defendants accused of crimes and covered by presumption of innocence.
The defendant in the case was accused of allegedly burning children by allegedly bathing them in water that was too hot.
The defendant's picture, name, age and accusations/charge were published in the newspaper article.
Here are the suggestions of the public, the potential jurors:
That is quite a range of options.
Remember, children are alive, and the criminal defendant is only ACCUSED of committing a crime at this stage.
Yet, we can:
- boil him;
- boil him specifically in oil;
- kill him without a trial or death row if he intentionally hurt a child - how that can be verified without a trial, is not suggested;
- "do the same thing to him";
- allow a commentator to run the defendant's next bath since prison is too good for him - with the obvious results that he will not survive that bath;
- "eye for an eye" - whatever that means in this context;
- hang him by the neck until dead;
- shoot them between the eyes on the date of publication of the accusation;
- throw him in a pot;
- put him in a cauldron over open fire;
- let 25 Moms corner him, and put him in scalding water, till he goes to the regional burn center;
- burn him at the stake;
- torture him and then hang him.
Once again, the commentators got creative and suggested that:
1. that the defendant's "smirk" should be beaten off her face;
2. that the defendant's face must be burnt;
3. that the defendant should be given a life sentence in prison;
4. that the defendant's children should be taken away from her;
5. that the defendant should be sterilized for free, "no more babies";
6. that the defendant should be set on fire;
7. that the defendant should be burnt with cigarettes "and keep burning her";
8. that the defendant should be instantly sentenced to death without wasting taxpayer dollars on her;
9. that the defendant should be burnt slowly and let to suffer, then she will burn in hell;
10. that the defendant should be burnt at the stake on live TV, and that her children - who are very much alive and only suffered insect bites (certainly not from their mother) - should "RIP".
Of course, all of these commentators should be spotted and taken out of jury pools, for cause, permanently, and such publications provide a galore for criminal defense attorneys in OTHER cases in creating a whole database of potential jurors to be stricken for cause.
Yet, for the particular defendant about whom the comments are made, publicity turns in a nightmare.
Of course, there is not even a hint of possibility for a fair trial left for such a defendant after just one publication, and there is no point telling anybody that the publication is just "local", not when all local media sources are on the Internet - and specifically, on Facebook, and not when Facebook has recently introduced search inside Facebook by keywords.
What is the remedy?
A radical solution is to prohibit ANY pre-trial publicity and to RIGOROUSLY punish police and prosecutors for making press-releases about charges being filed.
That is an especial necessity because such publicity triggers the need for the defendant and his attorney to try to undo the harm caused by such publicity - which may be impossible once the publication is made, since first impressions (from the publication and what was fed to the newspaper by the police and prosecution) may have the most lasting effect on the public.
Part of the solution is, of course, education of the public.
Drilling from kindergarten about the meaning of presumption of innocence.
Of course, that will make the work of the police much more difficult, with less people to be duped about their rights, but otherwise criminal defendants cannot have the right to a fair trial, and may be steered into plea bargains, especially in really bad cases in death penalty states, simply to avoid execution IF convicted - by a biased jury where, from the time the person was accused, and the accusation was plastered all over Facebook, the verdict was already there - burn him. Slowly.