Contact: Chris Perry
Center for Prosecutor Integrity Establishes Presumption of Innocence Program
WASHINGTON / January 4, 2017 – The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is pleased to announce the establishment of the Presumption of Innocence Program. The presumption of innocence is a principle tenet of the American justice system, and guarantees that guilt cannot be pronounced until the charge has been proven by the government. For a variety of reasons, the presumption has faded in recent decades and must be reinvigorated.
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity believes the presumption of innocence is an essential component of a fair and just legal system, and it must be restored. The Presumption of Innocence Program has four objectives:
1. Promote scholarship and research on the presumption of innocence;
2. Foster greater curricular attention to the presumption of innocence in schools of law;
3. Encourage policy changes that enhance the presumption of innocence; and
4. Enhance public awareness about the importance of the presumption of innocence.
To achieve these objectives, CPI has developed a series of resource documents, including an overview of the issues titled Presumption of Innocence: Cornerstone of Justice, a list of causes for the erosion of the presumption, strategies to restore the presumption, seminal court cases, and scholarly works.
Proposed changes to restore the presumption of innocence include the elimination of “victim-centered” investigations, mens rea reform, and amelioration of the prosecutorial “win at all costs” mindset.
In 1895, the Supreme Court declared, “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.” However, over the last half century, the courts have narrowed the application of the presumption of innocence to the trial context. This limitation is further worsened because over 90% of defendants never go to trial, which means they never receive the limited presumption of innocence protections that are afforded in the context of a trial.
As a result of these developments, one legal scholar concluded that the presumption “has become a notion, an assumption, with very little content.” A national opinion poll  commissioned by the Center for Prosecutor Integrity revealed that 66.8% of respondents believe the presumption of innocence is being lost in our nation’s legal system.
The National Registry of Exonerations has documented more than 1,900 exonerations since 1989.  A review of these cases reveals that far too often, the wrongful conviction arose from policies and procedures that minimized the presumption of innocence.
Further information about the Presumption of Innocence Program is available at www.prosecutorintegrity.org/innocence
 Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432 (1895).
 Pennington, K. (2003). Innocent Until Proven Guilty: The Origins of a Legal Maxim. 63 Jurist: Stud.Church L. & Ministry 106.
 CPI Survey Highlights, Available at: http://www.prosecutorintegrity.org/survey-summary/. Last viewed Dec. 29, 2016.
 National Registry of Exonerations, Available at: https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/about.aspx. Last viewed Dec. 22, 2016.
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is a criminal justice reform organization working to enhance prosecutorial ethics, restore the presumption of innocence, and end wrongful convictions.