Prosecutors across the state love to use that statement in front of the jury. I can assure you that if the defendant made any attempt to flee the scene or the jurisdiction during or even years after the crime was committed the prosecutor will argue that point to death. And the reason is because the law allows them to. And frankly juries seem to believe it as well.
The Supreme Court of Georgia has ruled that “evidence of flight, i.e. running, is admissible as circumstantial evidence of consciousness of guilt.” See Landers v. State, 270 Ga. 189 (1998). Basically, the court is saying that if you run it is because you know that you are guilty of the crime that you are being charged with. But is that really the truth? Although I cannot advise or condone running from the law, I can think of several reasons why an innocent person may choose to run rather than roll the dice at trial. Recent statistics released by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office show a conviction rate of 88%. That means that you only have a 12% chance of winning the case at trial. Maybe there are other charges or a warrant pending against you for something as simple as failing to appear for a ticket. What if you cannot provide an alibi because you were at home sleeping by yourself at the time of the crime and nobody can verify that? Honestly could you find somebody to verify that fact for every single night? I couldn’t. Or maybe you are just plain scared because the charges wrongfully brought against you are so heinous that you can’t imagine what would happen to you in prison if you were convicted.
The worst part of this law is that not only will the fact that you ran be told to the jury, but it is highly likely that what you did while on the run will also come in. This makes it highly likely that you will be convicted of the first crime just because the jury doesn’t like that you committed another while on the run. This is the whole “if he did that then he must have also done this other thing” mentality that many jurors have. At that point your presumption of innocence is simply a fantasy.
So does that mean that if you voluntarily turn yourself in that it is admissible as evidence of innocence? Of course not! But shouldn’t it work both ways? Almost all of us have some point in which we would consider running. Just because you run from one thing does not necessarily mean that you are guilty of another. Too bad prosecutors, judges, and juries refuse to admit that.
Article Contributed by Ryan Donnelly