By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Many of the House members who reelected Mike Hubbard as Speaker of the House, even though he has been indicted by the State on 23 Felony counts of public corruption, cite the well-worn phrase, “In this country you are innocent until proven guilty.”
The presumption of innocence is a foundational principle of the United States criminal justice system, but “innocent until proven guilty,” is a bit of a misnomer.
A legal explanation of this tenet reads, “According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the presumption of the innocence of a criminal defendant is best described as an assumption of innocence that is indulged in the absence of contrary evidence (Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478, 98 S. Ct. 1930, 56 L. Ed. 2d 468 ). It is not considered evidence of the defendant’s innocence, and it does not require that a mandatory inference favorable to the defendant be drawn from any facts in evidence.”
In the case of Hubbard, 18 citizens, registered voters, listened to evidence that led them to conclude that Hubbard had committed 23 crimes . Now, these indictments must go before a jury and the state must prove that the charges are true and that the defendant is guilty beyond a responsible doubt. Hubbard does not have to prove he is innocent, the State must prove he is guilty.
Our courts require that, “one accused of crime be treated with the utmost fairness, be given the benefit of all reasonable doubt, and be not prejudiced by the fact of his arrest, indictment, and trial,” according to The Presumption Of Innocence In Criminal Cases, 3 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 82 (1941).
The hard fact is that the statement, “Hubbard was reelected Speaker because he is innocent until proven guilty” is a lie masquerading as reason. The real reason Hubbard was reelected Speaker can be distilled into the common elements of fear or delusion.
Hubbard is surrounded by those who owe their status to him and are, therefore, committed to their benefactor. Some are Kool-Aid drinkers, others just want to ride the merry-go-round as long as possible. The Jim Jones’ crowd have bought the idea that, somehow, Attorney General Luther Strange is either so diabolical that he devised a coup against Hubbard to keep him from being a rival for the Governor’s seat in 2018, or that “Big Luther,” has lost control of his office and that Hubbard’s prosecutors are in control. And even those who have not fallen under this particular spell are convinced that Hubbard will never be found guilty. Of course these are the same people who said he would never be indicted.
Others, regretfully fear Hubbard and his iron-fisted punishment. Those who would normally oppose Hubbard have been brought to heel for now. Even the mere mention of challenging him as Speaker has resulted in swift retribution for those intrepid few.
A little over five thousand people in District 79 elected Hubbard as their representative and 99 House members followed suit. Many of them may think Hubbard is a crook, but in Alabama we’ve become accustom to criminals running the State.
But let’s be clear: innocent until proven guilty does not mean what they say it means. We should not compound the shame brought on by a lack of political courage with a stunning ignorance of lame excuses.