Innocent until proven guilty”, the bedrock of our judicial system, is it possible anymore?
The American Judicial System, adversarial though it may be, is still a fair system. Granted, it has its flaws, but no system is 100% perfect. It is a fluid system that grows as we grow. Today, DNA testing plays a major role in courtrooms, and has lowered the percentage of innocent people sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. According to The National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 1368 exonerated people since 1989. It is important to note that not all of these convictions have been overturned because of DNA evidence. The point is, although DNA evidence is more accurate now than it was in the late 1980’s, it is still not enough.
How do we pick a jury that knows nothing of the case being tried? People’s opinions of these cases are formed when the story hits the news. The 24 hour news channels run the story over and over again, then it is repeated on every social media site out there. Even if DNA evidence is 100% accurate, jurors go into the trial with an opinion, and not even irrefutable DNA evidence will change everyone’s mind. What happens then is either a hung jury, which leads to a new trial, or a conviction based on preconceived notions.
It may not be as dire now, but how does our system deal with potential jurors who have their minds made up before a trial begins? Information is everywhere, and it is impossible to find people who have no knowledge of high profile cases. This isn’t solely about convicting people we already think are guilty. Look at high-profile celebrity cases, jurors vote on whether or not they like the defendant. “I saw celebrity x in that movie, so there is no way he is guilty.” People aren’t perfect. Neither is our system, so the question remains, “How do we give someone a fair trial when jurors hear all about the crime before the trial even begins?”