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Innocent vs. Not guilty?

Elsewhere [on facebook]  I wrote “Zimmerman was found innocent of the charges.”  A former student replied “Zimmerman wasn’t found innocent. There is no such finding made by American courts. He was found not guilty…”  From my social science perspective as a social being with emotions and a warm heart (not just academic training) this is a distinction without a difference. The technical and real distinctions between “innocent” and “not guilty” are often no more than legal fallacies that disingenuous lawyers (courts and judges) tout like the distinctions between de facto and de jure discrimination, or, between strict scrutiny and rational relationship. These are labels we use to help make the system work. There is a presumption that one is innocent until proven guilty; however, if not proven guilty does one not retain their presumption of innocence? As one trained in the law, you must accept your rules that juries don’t find one innocent. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to establish beyond doubt that one is guilty. So, if the prosecution fails this task, the person is not guilty of the charges. To me, this means they retain their presumed innocence. All of this is rubbish, semantic legalese we use to justify our political-legal decision making processes. My academic training tells me that Zimmerman was found not guilty, but my humanity tells me he was found innocent of the charges. I trust my humanity.


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