On Sunday morning, while scrolling along my social media newsfeed, I came across one of those inspirational, uplifting (and often yes, I concede, sappy) America’s Got Talent Audition videos.
This audition video centred around a 45 year old man African American man named Archie Williams who, in 1983 was incarcerated for the rape and murder of a 32-year-old woman in the State of Louisiana.
Archie always maintained his innocence. In the audition video, he explains that at the trial three people had provided an alibi and that none of the fingerprints from the scene of the crime matched his.
Nonetheless, the jury unanimously voted that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and he was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for 80 years with no opportunity for parole or probation.
That was until The Innocence Project, an advocacy group seeking reforms in the criminal justice system while exonerating wrongly convicted through DNA testing, took on his case.
The group discovered that there were DNA fingerprints which matched that of a serial rapist and murderer at the time and Archie was released from prison, a free man.
His rendition of “Don’t let the Sun Go Down on Me” brought a standing ovation from the audience (even Simon Cowell!) and while Archie did not receive the golden buzzer, it did remind me of the need to preserve the golden thread of the criminal justice system.
What is the golden thread?
This golden thread, often defined as the presumption of innocence, is the foundation of our criminal justice system in Australia. It aims to ensure, as a fundamental principal, that an innocent person is scant convicted.
The golden thread is perhaps best articulated in Woolmington v DPP  A.C. 462 [HL] by Viscount Sankey,
“Throughout the web of the English Criminal Law one golden thread is always to be seen, that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner’s guilt… If, at the end of and on the whole of the case, there is a reasonable doubt, created by the evidence given by either the prosecution or the prisoner, … the prosecution has not made out the case and the prisoner is entitled to acquittal. No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained.”
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