I'm looking for an idiom, expression or a (set) phrase that implies "to punish somebody just out of prejudgment".

We Iranians have a saying that literally means "one shouldn't punish people before they having committed a crime."

Example scenario:

Suppose that a mom finds something like tobacco in her teenage son's room while she is cleaning there. She becomes very angry and as soon as the son returns home after school, the mom starts scolding him for smoking! The son desperately insists that he has never smoked, so the mom shows him the tobacco-like stuff. The son says:

But these are just some dried leaves from my Science class, you can even ask my teacher too! Come on, mom! Why are you punishing me before I have been proven guilty?! (= why are you scolding me just because of your wrong prejudgment about me?)

Is there any idiom or expression that can be used with this connotation?

I have found "Jump to conclusions", can I say "Come on, mom! Don't jump to conclusions before knowing the truth, I'm innocent" (Please stop scolding me just out of prejudgment).

I have also found this title, but I'm not sure if it would have the same connotation with the Persian saying.

  • 4
    FWIW you normally say "jump to conclusions" with an "s" or "don't jump to any conclusions" or "you're jumping to conclusions before you know what happened".
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 20:14
  • @JoeBlow, Does it have always a negative connotation?
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 20:15
  • 5
    In Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Alice is on trial for her life. The King says Let the jury consider their verdict. The Queen responds No, no! ... Sentence first — verdict afterwards.
    – bib
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 21:26
  • 1
    There's a "kangaroo court," where the verdict is already decided and the trial is just for show. Similar to a "show trial".
    – Joe L.
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 0:16
  • 1
    That's why it's in a comment. Not so easily applied in a sentence. Maybe You sound like the Red Queen saying Off with his head! even before my trial. A bt strained.
    – bib
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 13:17

11 Answers 11


Consider the phrase rush to judgment as the action of one who concludes too quickly on the basis of insufficient or misconstrued evidence.

In an article published at stubbornthings.org Jerry Richardson contrasts a rush to judgment with the concept of the Rule of Law expounded by Madison in Federalist No. 51:

Vigilantes often rush to judgment, and get it wrong. Result? Innocent people get killed or otherwise unjustly punished.

I prefer this expression as generally accessible to less cliched than "judging a book by its cover."

  • 1
    +1, jump to conclusions is definitely the first thing I thought of when I read the title, but this one applies more specifically to the example scenario, where your conclusion is a judgement of someone else.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:41

Jump to conclusion is just fine.

Don't judge a book by its cover may also convey the idea of an erroneous judgment based just on what something looks like:

  • used for saying that you should not form an opinion about someone or something only from their appearance.

(Macmillan Dictionary)

  • +1, Just a note on usage, given the example in the question: "jump to any conclusions" sounds a bit awkward. It's a bit of a set phrase, which is usually used as-is. So, you would say "don't jump to conclusions", not "don't jump to any conclusions".
    – DCShannon
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:40
  • @DCShannon, thanks for your remark, I edited my sentence. :)
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 19:35

One idiom common in the United States is "jump the gun." You might warn against reaching a conclusion before all the evidence has been heard by saying "Don't jump the gun!"

Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (1997) has this entry for the idiom:

jump the gun Start doing something too soon, act too hastily. [Example omitted.] This expression alludes to starting a race before the starter's gun has gone off, and supplants the earlier beat the pistol, which dates from about 1900. {Mid-1900s}

Continuing with gun metaphors, we also have "go off half-cocked," which Ammer explains as follows:

go off 1. Explode, detonate; also make noise, sound, especially abruptly. [Example omitted.] This expression developed in the late 1500s and gave rise about 1700 to the related go off half-cocked, now meaning "to act prematurely," but originally referring to the slipping of a gun's hammer so that the gun fires (goes off) unexpectedly.

In the context of a finding of guilt or a condemnation of someone accused of something, both "jump the gun" and "go off half-cocked" imply (in a very colloquial way) not following rules of due process that would ensure that all relevant evidence is considered before a verdict is reached.

I suppose that "shoot first and ask questions later" would make a logical third option here. Interestingly, whereas "jump the gun" and "go off half-cocked" are universally acknowledged to be bad things, you can find advocates of "shoot first and ask questions later" as a reasonable policy (among the shooters, though not necessarily among the shot at).

  • I think "go off" works well as a colloquial description of the accuser's behavior in the OP example, whether or not the explosion was the result of prejudgment. It certainly fits from the point of view of the excoriated party.
    – Rob_Ster
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 3:36

Don't speak too soon:

to say something that is quickly proven to be not true - "A few days ago I said my job is pretty stress-free, but I spoke too soon – the stress level at work has gone way up this week."

Assume something prematurely, as in "I guess I spoke too soon about moving to Boston; I didn't get the job after all."


Innocent until proven guilty is an idiom that would fit.

  • 1
    I think that's the opposite? This is more like "guilty until proven innocent".
    – jimm101
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 12:29
  • 3
    "Hey Mum, what you jumping on me for? Innocent until proven guilty!" Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 12:38

Your example is specific to a single accuser. When speaking about a group of people who are punishing without due process, and particularly in the U.S., it would be common to invoke the concept of a lynch mob:

Lynching, as a form of punishment for presumed criminal offenses, performed by self-appointed commissions, mobs, or vigilantes without due process of law took place in the United States before the American Civil War and afterwards, from southern states to western frontier settlements.

Some of the most common imagery associated with an angry mob is of townspeople wielding pitchforks and torches. As a result, sayings like "put down your pitchforks" are common when wanting to evoke the idea of a mob mentality.


Consider, Don't put the cart before the horse

To have things in the wrong order; to have things confused and mixed up McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs


Consider to hang before trial. For example:

It may look like I'm the culprit, but don't hang me before the trial.

It's a tongue-in-cheek reference to the "right to be tried before conviction", and to the lawless practice of executing a suspected criminal (by hanging) before investigating the possibility of their innocence.

Unfortunately I can't find a good reference, but I'd be surprised if you had to explain this one.


If the mother is not going to punish him herself but instead is going to (or likely to) inform someone else and let that person punish him, as they fit (the father,local authorities, etc.) she might say something like "Wait 'til your father hears about this..." to which the son might reply "C'mon on mom, don't throw me to the wolves when I haven't even done anything wrong."

throw to the wolves - to cause someone to be in a situation where they are criticized strongly or treated badly and to not try to protect them

Otherwise, though David Glickman already suggested it, here's the other one he and I thought of in an example sentence:

If no third person is relevant, there's always use the actual legal term applied as basic right to all US citizens (supposedly) "Wait mom, what ever happened to being innocent until proven guilty? At least give me a chance to explain." Or something along those lines.


I think the Son needs to find something to say that reminds his Mom to “get all the facts.”
He could throw Bernard Baruch’s quote in her face:

[Mom, if you get all the facts, your judgment can be right; if you don't get all the facts, it can't be right;

but he could probably paraphrase it with equal success as follows:

Mom, shouldn’t you get all the facts before condemning me?

(Mr. Baruch’s quote from ‘Brainy Quote’ and example usage of “get all the facts” from ‘Jaded 2: The Silent Injustice’ By Randy A. DeOrio, via Google Books)

(you could even consider combining "get all the facts before ..." with some of the other great answers for a slightly humorous, borderline oxymoron, e.g., "Mom, please get all the facts {straight} before rushing to judgment/before jumping to conclusions")

The Son could also go the full sarcastic route (although he’d probably get [justifiably?] punished for his ‘attitude’) with:

That’s right Mom, don’t {ever} let the facts cloud your judgment!

(from ‘tigernet[dot]com)

(Or without mentioning the word 'facts' at all, possibly his greatest chance of successfully avoiding punishment [and he might even get a hug out of it] would merely require him to sweetly remind his Mom of something she’s probably told him many times before:
“But Mom, didn’t you teach me that having prejudice in our hearts and prejudging people are wrong?”)


Foregone conclusion

Hasty judgment/conclusion

jumping to a conclusion.

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