Presumption of Innocence


Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook

Reproduced with permission from:
Timothy E. Pierce and the Franklin County Public Defender Office

R.C. 2901.05(A) -- "Every person accused of an offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt..."
State v. Murphy, 173 Ohio App. 3d 221, 2007-Ohio-4535 – Defendant‘s disruptive actions in the courtroom were either contrived or the result of a medical condition. Sufficient attention was given to the alternatives during proceedings that use of restraints was warranted, notwithstanding that their use might undermine the presumption of innocence. Other claims arising from the same pattern rejected as well.
State v. Garry, 173 Ohio App. 3d 168, 2007-Ohio-4878 – Defendant was found not guilty of hitting a police horse. Trial court twice refused to order his arrest record expunged. ¶7: "When people are found not guilty, they have not lost the presumption of innocence. The government must make a strong showing to defeat the sealing of a 'not guilty' finding." Reversed as an abuse of discretion.
State v. Hafer (2001), 144 Ohio App. 3d 345, 348 -- "The presumption of innocence of the accused in a criminal prosecution is a basic component of our criminal justice system. Coffin v. United States (1895), 156 U.S. 432, 453; State v. Lane (1979), 60 Ohio St. 2d 112, 115. Hence, the punishment imposed must be confined to those charges of which the accused is convicted. More specifically, a sentence of restitution must be limited to the actual economic loss caused by the illegal conduct for which the defendant was convicted..."
State v. Geboy (2001), 145 Ohio App. 3d 706 -- Prosecutor made the defendant's failure to assert his innocence a centerpiece of opening and closing arguments and testimony by state's witnesses. Unlike Doyle, use was not limited to impeachment. This undermined the presumption of innocence. Reversed as plain error. Also see State v. Ruby, 149 Ohio App. 3d 541, 2002-Ohio-5381 where comparable use was made, defense counsel failed to object and the court of appeals reversed based on ineffective assistance of counsel after declining to find plain error.
State v. Williams, 99 Ohio St. 3d 439, 2003-Ohio-4164, ¶ 73-77 -- No plain error found in reference to the defendant having been arrested for aggravated murder. Reference established context for his admissions at the jail when blood was drawn for DNA testing. Situation does not erode the presumption of innocence in the same manner as appearing for trial in jail clothing.
Deck v. Missouri (1995), 125 S.Ct. 2007 -- Due process forbids the routine use of restraints at the penalty phase of a capital trial. Use of visible restraints requires justification specifically related to the particular defendant on trial. The defendant need not prove prejudice. Instead the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that shackling did not contribute to the verdict obtained.
Estelle v. Williams (1976), 425 U.S. 501, 503 -- (1) "The presumption of innocence, although not articulated in the Constitution, is a basic component of a fair trial under our system of criminal justice. Long ago this court stated: '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.' Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432, 453 (1895)." (2) If the defendant makes timely objection, the state cannot compel him to stand trial in identifiable prison or jail clothing.
United States v. Williams (7th Cir. 1984), 738 F.2d 172, 176-177 -- It is error to allow the prosecution to cross examine defense character witnesses as to whether their favorable testimony would change, if they assume the charges against the defendant to be proven. Such questioning "assumes away the presumption of innocence."
State v. Williams (1969), 21 Ohio App. 2d 184 -- Testimony that homicide defendant had been deceitful in various ways and not properly admissible as similar acts evidence undermined the presumption of innocence. At P. 188: "Suspicion, no matter how well founded in the mind, cannot be permitted to supplant proof."
State v. Carter (1977), 53 Ohio App. 2d 125 -- It a denial of a defendant's right to be presumed innocent for him to appear in the courtroom in shackles, absent a judicial finding restrain is necessary. Also see United States v. Theriault (5th Cir. 1876), 531 F. 2d 281, 284-285; Woodard v. Perrin (1st Cir. 1982), 692 F. 2d 320.
Holbrook v. Flynn (1986), 475 U.S. 560 -- Presence of armed guards in courtroom not per se improper. Not every practice which tends to single out the defendant from others in the courtroom must be struck down. Issue is whether the procedures adopted created an unacceptable risk of prejudice.
State v. Lane (1970), 60 Ohio St. 2d 112 -- A trial conducted inside a prison erodes the presumption of innocence, denying due process.

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Published by Timothy E. Pierce
Copyright © Franklin County Public Defender and Timothy E. Pierce, 2015
Contents may not be duplicated without express permission.