The Presumption of Innocence Comes from Talmudic Law
In a previous post, I argued that that the concept of proving a crime came from the Christian practice of the safer path doctrine. Currently I am reading a book about why the West is obsessed with reason for my dissertation, and I came across how the safer path doctrine originated.
Daniel Epps (p. 1078) explains that Pope Innocent III developed the safer path doctrine from a combination of Greek, Roman, and biblical teachings. The safer path doctrine argues that it is better to acquit the guilty than convict the innocent (Morano, pp. 510-512) to err on the side of not sinning and committing murder (Whitman, p. 62). Epps (pp. 1077-1078) explains that this teaching came from Exodus 23:7 “Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.”
James Franklin (p. 25) explains that the Talmud rationalized this commandment by the fact that killing an innocent person is like killing the world because a life cannot be repaid with a monetary value. This Talmudic law eventually led to the British doctrine of convicting someone beyond a reasonable doubt. But Exodus 23:7 says do not kill the innocent and righteous because we should not give false testimonies, not due to the human rationalization that human life is priceless.
God values justice (Psalm 11:7). Justice is equality under the law. If a witness gives false testimony, an accused has more to prove which he cannot show because the story is not true in the first place. In this case, the accused has to pay for a debt that he never owed, and the scales are tipped against him.
In Exodus 23:1-9, God talks about various ways to be just in judgments, including not killing the innocent and righteous because of false testimonies. This theme of justice implies that false testimonies are not just like God values. Killing the innocent and righteous violates God’s character of justice.