WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A legal reform organization has unveiled innocence quilts to highlight the growing problem of the loss of the presumption of innocence. Affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the presumption of innocence has long been viewed as a bedrock principle of the American legal code.
SAVE – Stop Abusive and Violent Environments -- believes widespread changes are urgently needed to restore the integrity of the criminal justice system, protect civil rights, and thwart false allegations. False accusations serve to divert scarce services and protections from needy victims.
Each innocence quilt lists the names of about 30 persons wrongfully convicted and later exonerated of crimes such as sexual assault and child abuse. The purpose of the quilts is to highlight the devastating effect of wrongful convictions on innocent persons, and to alert the American public to the pressing need for reform: www.saveservices.org/innocence/quilt.
Legal scholars have decried the loss of the presumption of innocence:
- "The words 'accused' and 'convict' are becoming increasingly synonymous." — Francois Quintard-Morenas, Georgetown University
- The "presumption of innocence no longer protects defendants before trial." — Shima Baradaran, Brigham Young University
- "Evidentiary standards for proving abuse have been so relaxed that any man who stands accused is considered guilty." — Cheryl Hanna, University of Vermont
"Over the last 30 years, federal and state laws have whittled away at the presumption of innocence," notes SAVE spokesman Chris Thompson. "As a result, persons have been convicted and imprisoned based solely on the claim of a single accuser without any witnesses or corroborating evidence. That's a legal and moral travesty that cannot be allowed to continue."
Last week Eric Glisson and Cathy Watkins of New York were declared innocent after spending 15 years in prison on a false murder charge. To date, 1,039 persons have been exonerated of a broad range of offenses: http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/about.aspx
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a legal reform organization working to restore the presumption of innocence in the nation's legal system: www.saveservices.org/innocence .
Contact: Teri Stoddard
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Source: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments