The Champion

March 2011 , Page 18 

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Building the Persuasive Case for Innocence

By Ann M. Roan

I. History

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 law.1

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, whi
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