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The Champion

April 2015 , Page 20 

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The Presumption of Innocence and Trial Court Judges: Our Greatest Failing

By Judge Mark W. Bennett

As my more than 20-year career as a federal trial court judge winds down, I feel a sense of urgency to write about judges and their role in educating potential jurors about the presumption of innocence in jury selection. I have nothing but a wellspring of admiration for my federal and state court colleagues on the trial bench. They are the bedrock of the best system for delivering justice known to humankind. As a group, however, we have woefully failed to assist potential jurors in internalizing the meaning of the presumption of innocence. The hope of all judges is that each juror selected will be committed to giving the accused the full benefit of the presumption of innocence. Unless we judges dramatically improve our efforts to explain the presumption, however, our hope will not be realized. The presumption of innocence is, along with its sister, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the Holy Grail of the criminal justice system.

The Full Benefit

As a new trial court judge i

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