Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) received a swift lesson in basic criminal law on Thursday over her backward response to former President Donald Trump being indicted.
"The Grand Jury has acted upon the facts and the law. No one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence," Pelosi reacted. "Hopefully, the former President will peacefully respect the system, which grants him that right."
The problem with Pelosi's response is obvious: The U.S. criminal justice system does not afford the accused "the right to a trial to prove innocence."
Rather, Americans accused of crimes are assumed to be innocent. Prosecutors, who officially charge individuals, are responsible for proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And if a jury unanimously agrees the government failed to meet that standard — even if everyone "knows" the accused is guilty — the criminal justice system dictates that the accused is not guilty.
Cornell Law School also explains:
The presumption of innocence is not guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. However, through statutes and court decisions—such as the U.S. Supreme Court case of Taylor v. Kentucky—it has been recognized as one of the most basic requirements of a fair trial.
Twitter, moreover, added a correction to Pelosi's tweet.
"Ms. Pelosi mistakenly says that Trump can prove his innocence at trial. Law in the US assumes the innocence of a defendant and the prosecution must prove guilt for a conviction," it says.
What was the response?
Pelosi's tweet went viral, generating more than 10 million views by Friday morning and a tidal wave of backlash. Thousands of people provided Pelosi with a basic legal lesson about the presumption of innocence.
- "This exactly the opposite of how this works. Nobody is required to 'prove innocence' in our criminal justice system. See the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments, or any episode of 'Law and Order,'" Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), a lawyer, said.
- "The right to 'prove innocence'? This is America, not Stalinist Russia," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a lawyer, responded.
- "Wrong. So obviously wrong. Most Middle Schoolers know this—at least they used to, when civics and the Constitution was respected in schools. You're innocent until proven guilty," Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer, responded.
- "This is exactly backward. Under our justice system, no one has to prove innocence. The state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You’d hope a former speaker would know the basics of law and be precise, especially in such an unprecedented and seemingly flimsy prosecution," former Rep. Justin Amash, a lawyer, said.
- "Uh it's 'innocent until proven guilty' not opportunity to 'prove innocence,'" Ben Shapiro, a lawyer, said.
- "Nancy Pelosi is dead wrong here. Does she really have no clue that the burden is not on a defendant to prove their innocence at trial?" former Rep. Lee Zeldin, a lawyer, responded.
- "Stalinist Pelosi. Prove innocent? It's innocent until proven guilty, moron. Or at least used to be," BlazeTV host Mark Levin, a lawyer, responded.
To be fair, Pelosi is not a lawyer, so how could she possibly know about the presumption of innocence? At least she does now.
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