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Building the Persuasive Case for Innocence
By Ann M. Roan
Criminal defense in the United States is anchored by a quartet of
constitutional rights: the requirement of proof by the government beyond
a reasonable doubt of each element of the charged offenses; the
presumption of innocence; the right to effective assistance of counsel;
and the right to remain silent. Each of these principles has roots dug
deep in the soil of Western civilization.
The presumption of innocence is sacred and central to criminal jurisprudence:
The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor
of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its
enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal
In Coffin v. United States, the Court illustrated the historical
foundation of the requirement that the accuser prove his allegations
beyond a reasonable doubt by telling this story:
Ammianus Marcellinus relates an anecdote of the Emperor Julian,
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