This is plainly a case of condemning the innocent. I say therefore that this can’t be an interpretation of a law of nature anywhere in the world, and can’t be made a law by the judgments of previous judges who had done the same. Whoever judged it first judged unjustly; and no injustice can serve as a pattern of judgment for succeeding judges. A written law may forbid innocent men to flee, and they may be punished for fleeing; but that fleeing because one is afraid of being wronged should be taken as a ‘presumption’ of guilt after a man has been judicially cleared of the crime is contrary to the nature of a presumption. Once judgment has been given, there’s no further room for presumptions . Yet this is said by a great lawyer for the common law of England [ Sir Edward Coke, Institutes of Law ; Coke was a high court judge under Elizabeth and James I. ] . He writes: Suppose an innocent man is accused of felony, and runs away out of fear of the consequences of the accusation, and eventually is judicially acquitted of the felony. If it’s found that he fled because of the · accusation of · felony; he shall, despite his innocence, forfeit all his goods, chattels, debts, and duties. For the law will not allow any evidence opposing the forfeiture to outweigh the presumption in law based on his flight. [ ‘Evidence’ here and below replaces ‘proof’ in the originals. ] Here you see an innocent man being condemned, after having been judicially acquitted , to lose all the goods he has. No written law forbade him to flee, but the forfeiture of his goods is based on ‘a presumption in law’! • If the law takes his flight to be a basis for a presumption of the fact— · i.e. a presumption that he was guilty of the act of which he was accused · , which was a capital offence—the sentence ought to have been · not mere forfeiture of goods but · death. And • if it wasn’t a presumption of the fact, why ought he to lose his goods? So this is no law of England; and the basis for the condemnation is not a presumption of law but a presumption of the judges! Furthermore, it’s against law to say that no evidence shall be admitted against a presumption of law. For all judges, sovereign and subordinate, if they refuse to hear evidence refuse to do justice ; for even if the final judgment is just, judges that condemn without hearing the evidence that is offered are unjust judges; and their ‘presumption’ is mere prejudice. No man should bring that with him to the seat of justice, whatever previous judgments or examples he claims to be following. There are other things like this, where men’s judgments have been perverted by trusting to precedents; but this one is enough to show that although the judgment of the judge is a law to • the party pleading, it is not law to • any judge that follows him in that office.
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