Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Reasonable Doubt, a central concept in our criminal justice system, can sometimes be difficult to comprehend. But it's critical that jurors understand reasonable doubt because they are the ones applying it to determine guilt or innocence in criminal trials. What follows is a explanation of the key terms and two scenarios to illustrate. Before a trial begins in California, the judge gives jurors this definition of reasonable doubt: "Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you with an abiding conviction that the charge is true. The evidence need not eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to some possible or imaginary doubt."
- The way to consider "doubt" is uncertainty. If you as the juror have doubts, then you are not convinced that the defendant committed the crime for which he/she is accused.
- These doubts, though, have to be "reasonable." They can't be derived from fanciful, far-fetched scenarios. Instead they have to arise from plausible alternative explanations.
- "Beyond" in this context means excluding or eliminating.