By six votes to five, the Supreme Court justices reversed the previous interpretation by the same court that permitted the imprisonment of convicted people who lose their first appeal.
In the current decision, the Supreme Court stuck to the Constitution, which establishes that “nobody shall be considered guilty until the criminal conviction is final and unappealable”.
Gabriel Sampaio, coordinator of the Tackling Institutional Violence program at Conectas, said that the decision will require more effective criteria to be adopted for pre-trial detention. According to data from Infopen (National Prison Information Survey), of the Ministry of Justice, there were 235,000 people detained without a conviction in Brazil in 2017.
“When you change the interpretation of the Constitution, you need to take into account the consequences of this type of decision for people who, in practice, already have their rights violated,” said Sampaio. “A relaxation of the presumption of innocence is a measure that mainly affects black and poor people from the urban periphery who are often considered to be convicted at the moment of the police contact, without any right to defense,” he added.
According to Sampaio, the reinforcement of this interpretation by the Supreme Court is a positive step because the text of the Constitution is clear. In October, Conectas was present in the Supreme Court as an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) to defend the need to respect the presumption of innocence and the right to defense, as established in the Constitution.
See here the oral statement made by Conectas.