I don’t have anything to say about the Jordan Johnson trial other than to comment on something County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg said after the verdict. Van Valkenburg said that the verdict was “not guilty”, not “innocent”, thereby implying that he believed that Jordan Johnson was guilty on some level.
However, as a matter of law, under the Constitution a “Not Guilty” verdict does equal innocence. Let me explain. By our constitution, any person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent. This presumption is not overcome unless, and until, the State proves, beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. Since the Presumption of Innocence attaches to the Defendant throughout the entire trial, including deliberations, he is innocent unless the jury finds him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is why there is no alternative on the verdict form of “Innocent”. If the jury finds that the State has not proven guilt, then the Defendant is still innocent as a matter of law.
Therefore, “Not Guilty” = “Innocent”.
Prosecutors and others routinely comment that a “Not Guilty” verdict does not mean that the jury has found that the Defendant is completely innocent. That is true, but the jury has no option to find the Defendant innocent. Because the Defendant is presumed innocent and the State has the sole burden to prove guilt, it is not necessary for the jury to determine innocence. That is why we have the 5th Amendment which provides that a Defendant cannot be compelled to testify. He need not prove his innocence, because he is presumed to be innocent.
Van Valkenburg’s comment implying that Johnson is guilty of something is simply sour grapes and a cheap shot.