Should "innocent" be an option as a verdict in criminal trials?
We presently have "guilty" and "not guilty" as verdict options. "Not guilty" is often treated as "we still think you're guilty, we just didn't present a good enough case to convict you". Victims and/or their families often follow up a not guilty verdict with a civil lawsuit seeking financial damages, as the level of proof is lower.
As we have seen with so many exonerations in recent years, factually innocent people get convicted too often, so it stands to reason that there are more that are wrongly accused but beat the rap and are found not guilty... yet the "not guilty" still may face legal battles in the form of civil lawsuits, civil rights violation charges, and so on.
Should we add a third option of "innocent" for juries and/or judges to consider and use? Because it is now undeniable that factually innocent people are sometimes accused and charged, this would allow juries and/or judges to state, "We see no credible evidence whatsoever that this person is guilty, and as such, deem them to be factually innocent. They are hereby set free, and cannot face any further prosecution whatsoever for this particular crime." This would eliminate civil suits, civil rights violation charges, etc. A person who is deemed innocent shouldn't have to face a never-ending legal gauntlet simply because a family is emotionally upset (albeit understandably, but still...), or the DoJ is grandstanding.
Would it be perfect? Of course not. Human involvement eliminates any concept of perfection. Would it be an improvement and a step toward fairness (which justice is supposed to be about)? Yes, I believe so.