The news headlines tend to be chock full of stories about crimes and the arrests that follow them. A lot less often, we hear how the cases play out. Some might argue that this does a great disservice to the public because the last impression the public may tend to end up with is that whoever police arrested must have been guilty.
The reality is that an arrest and filing of criminal charges do not equate with conviction and anyone charged is presumed innocent. Further, many times, those who are charged wind up being cleared.
Those stories don't often get reported. But a story last week out of Norfolk stands as an exception.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, a 25-year-old Virginia Beach man was acquitted of charges last week relating to the alleged shooting and robbery in February 2012 of a Chesapeake man. The defendant and another man had been accused in the death of the 29-year-old victim.
The second man charged pleaded guilty in September 2012 to charges of being an accessory after the fact to murder and to conspiracy to distribute marijuana. He is due to be sentenced next month. The first defendant, however, pleaded not guilty in the case, and the jury found for him.
Details of the trial were not provided in the news report about the acquittal. According to the story, the 25-year-old man's attorney argued that while a gun owned by his client had been tied to the shooting, it had been reported stolen by his client. The weapon was said to have been recovered by police four days after the crime under circumstances that weren't clear.
The defense further sought to bolster its case by noting that the defendant had no felony record and had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Every case is different, but within the context of this one, it is clear that prosecutors failed to meet the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Source: HamptonRoads.com, "Virginia Beach man acquitted of 2012 murder," Janie Bryant, The Virginian-Pilot, March 13, 2014