Presumption of Innocence

Question

Hi Rabbi, does Judaism also believe in the principle of a person being innocent until proven guilty? If so, I’d appreciate an example. Thanks.

, 2 months

Answers

  1. Definitely! And not only in the legal system, but also in the way we perceive what others do in everyday life. The “golden rule” is to “judge everyone favorably” (Ethics of the Fathers 1:6). Here’s a story a friend told me that illustrates the importance of presumed innocence.

    A man and his wife were out jogging not far from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. As they neared an upward incline the husband took his wife’s handbag in order to make it easier for her. Then he sped ahead.

    At that moment, a Jerusalem police officer happened along. What sight met his eyes? A woman running after a man who had just “snatched” her handbag from her shoulder. The alert officer grabbed the alleged purse-snatcher and put him in a vice-like arm lock. “Lady! Is this your handbag?” he called.

    The woman was too out of breath to answer. She could only watch in horror as the policeman proceeded to arrest her husband. She finally caught her breath and explained to the officer what really happened, but not before their son’s best friend wandered past and witnessed the embarrassing “arrest.”

    The Creator wants us to use our perceptions. I think it’s fair to say that in the above incident the policeman acted dutifully. Yet, our senses trick us over and over again, and we nevertheless continue making superficial assessments to judge negatively. How important is it that we know that there may be more to the story than meets the eye!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team