Court Cases

The following are milestone U.S. Supreme Court cases that have addressed the presumption of innocence:

  1. Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895). One of the essential due process safeguards that attends the accused at his trial is the benefit of the presumption of innocence—”that bedrock `axiomatic and elementary’ principle whose `enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law.’ “453
  2. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970). “The accused during a criminal prosecution has at stake interests of immense importance, both because of the possibility that he may lose his liberty upon conviction and because of the certainty that he would be stigmatized by the conviction. Accordingly, a society that values the good name and freedom of every individual should not condemn a man for commission of a crime when there is reasonable doubt about his guilt.” 363-364
  3. Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501 (1976). “The presumption of innocence, though not articulated in the Constitution, is a basic component of a fair trial under our system of criminal justice.” 503
  4. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). “The presumption of innocence is a doctrine that allocates the burden of proof in criminal trials… [I]t has no application to the determination of the rights of a pretrial detainee during confinement before his trial has even begun.” 533