‘It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer’
– William Blackstone (1765).
‘It is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer’
– Benjamin Franklin (1785)
There is a lot of discussion about the failings (actual or perceived) of the criminal justice system to punish appropriately a white man who killed an Indigenous boy by chasing him down with a car. Already, there are the usual bunch of liberal weenies who want to talk about the presumption of innocence and how he was entitled to a fair trial and that the prosecution clearly did not prove its case.
The problem is that the 10:1 ratio or the 100:1 ratio isn’t colourblind, genderblind, or classblind. The presumption of innocence is clearly skewed in favour of wealthy white guys and against Indigenous kids.
If we are going to be serious about protecting the presumption of innocence, we need to have some serious explanation when situations arise where the system appears to fail those who want justice. It is not good enough to say to grieving families: ‘Trust us, justice is very fair even though it seems white people can mow down your children and escape punishment, and black kids can’t steal an apple without risking being sent to a juvenile detention centre. Trust us, justice is very fair even though it seems a person arrested for protesting outside the court might serve a longer time in jail than the person who killed an Indigenous kid.’
It is not good enough to rely on trite slogans from the 1700s to explain away what seem like manifest injustices.