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Is "Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" Too High of a Standard?

Is "Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" Too High of a Standard?


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X Factor

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I'm especially interested in hearing from those who think Zimmerman should have been convicted based on the evidence presented at trial. The State not only had the burden of proving that Zimmerman killed Martin but once the Martin lawyers brought up self defense, the state had to disprove that it was self defense by that same high standard. I think it's clear the state could not meet that burden so I'm asking all you, especially those of you who think the verdict was unjust, is that burden just too high to put on the prosecutor?

Answers will be yes, no, and I don't know/maybe.

Working on poll.
 

Juiposa

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I'm especially interested in hearing from those who think Zimmerman should have been convicted based on the evidence presented at trial. The State not only had the burden of proving that Zimmerman killed Martin but once the Martin lawyers brought up self defense, the state had to disprove that it was self defense by that same high standard. I think it's clear the state could not meet that burden so I'm asking all you, especially those of you who think the verdict was unjust, is that burden just too high to put on the prosecutor?

Answers will be yes, no, and I don't know/maybe.

Working on poll.
Absolutely not. Any lower of a standard runs the risk of unfair trial and wrongful conviction becoming commonplace and allows for justifiable grounds for arbitrary conviction.
 

Unitedwestand13

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I'm especially interested in hearing from those who think Zimmerman should have been convicted based on the evidence presented at trial. The State not only had the burden of proving that Zimmerman killed Martin but once the Martin lawyers brought up self defense, the state had to disprove that it was self defense by that same high standard. I think it's clear the state could not meet that burden so I'm asking all you, especially those of you who think the verdict was unjust, is that burden just too high to put on the prosecutor?

Answers will be yes, no, and I don't know/maybe.

Working on poll.
i don't know.

the reason for my answer is that i approached this entire case under a misconception. I thought the jury could convict Zimmerman on manslaughter if they found doubt with his story. i thought that zimmerman had to proof his story true beyond a reasonable doubt.

but trials don't work that way, and that the prosecution to prove that Zimmerman is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not that and Zimmerman having to prove he was innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.
 

Juiposa

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i don't know.

the reason for my answer is that i approached this entire case under a misconception. I thought the jury could convict Zimmerman on manslaughter if they found doubt with his story. i thought that zimmerman had to proof his story true beyond a reasonable doubt.

but trials don't work that way, and that the prosecution to prove that Zimmerman is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not that and Zimmerman having to prove he was innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.
Having to prove you are innocent as opposed to the prosecution proving you are guilty works upon the assumption that you are guilty, and therefore you have to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not the way it works. You are assumed innocent, therefore the burden falls upon the persecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are in fact guilty.
 

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I'm especially interested in hearing from those who think Zimmerman should have been convicted based on the evidence presented at trial. The State not only had the burden of proving that Zimmerman killed Martin but once the Martin lawyers brought up self defense, the state had to disprove that it was self defense by that same high standard. I think it's clear the state could not meet that burden so I'm asking all you, especially those of you who think the verdict was unjust, is that burden just too high to put on the prosecutor?

Answers will be yes, no, and I don't know/maybe.

Working on poll.
No, I do not think that it is too high a standard. However, it must be noted that there is a difference between guilty "beyond reasonable doubt" (theory) and what actually occurs in our court rooms (practice). Many a time, people have had doubts or information has been revealed that creates doubt over whether a person is actually guilty or not, yet they still go to prison. (Think Troy Davis and the retraction of witness statements due to police coercion.)
 

Unitedwestand13

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Having to prove you are innocent as opposed to the prosecution proving you are guilty works upon the assumption that you are guilty, and therefore you have to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not the way it works. You are assumed innocent, therefore the burden falls upon the persecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are in fact guilty.
that's why i said i came into this case with a misconception.
 

Juiposa

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No, I do not think that it is too high a standard. However, it must be noted that there is a difference between guilty "beyond reasonable doubt" (theory) and what actually occurs in our court rooms (practice). Many a time, people have had doubts or information has been revealed that creates doubt over whether a person is actually guilty or not, yet they still go to prison. (Think Troy Davis and the retraction of witness statements due to police coercion.)
Having a mere doubt is not ground for acquittal. That is why it is called reasonable doubt, as one may still doubt evidence, but if found agreeable and can only be doubted to a reasonable level, then a conviction can be made. Certainty is impossible, and if a justice system was built around it, no one would ever go to jail.
 

Mr. Invisible

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Having a mere doubt is not ground for acquittal. That is why it is called reasonable doubt, as one may still doubt evidence, but if found agreeable and can only be doubted to a reasonable level, then a conviction can be made. Certainty is impossible, and if a justice system was built around it, no one would ever go to jail.
Well, I mentioned Troy Davis because that situation was not just "a mere doubt."

But anyways, I dig where you are coming from. I wasn't trying to say that it should be "mere doubt," though it seems that it may have come across that way. I was just saying that there is a difference between what we want to do in theory with our justice system, in regards to establishing guilt, and what actually occurs.
 

Dr. Chuckles

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No, I do not think that it is too high a standard. However, it must be noted that there is a difference between guilty "beyond reasonable doubt" (theory) and what actually occurs in our court rooms (practice). Many a time, people have had doubts or information has been revealed that creates doubt over whether a person is actually guilty or not, yet they still go to prison. (Think Troy Davis and the retraction of witness statements due to police coercion.)
Well, it is still a system based on people and all the trappings that come with it. No such system is going to be perfect (which is my main reason for being against the DP).
 

Buck Ewer

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I believe that in a simple murder trial the burden should be on the state as to who did it.
But in cases where the killer comes forward and freely admits that they have killed the burden should definitely be on the killer to prove that it was justified.
It's too easy for murderers to get away with murder when all they need to do is make up a halfway convincing story that leaves any doubt and walk free only on a shred of doubt.
That's crazy.
 

Paschendale

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The OP is not actually correct. That's not how affirmative defenses work. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's guilt. If it does so, the jury should convict. An affirmative defense, like self defense, is asserted by the defendant and the burden of persuasion is on them, not the prosecution. The required standard is preponderance of the evidence. That is, that the affirmative defense is more likely than not true, the jury then should acquit, or rather, can acquit. The particulars of how affirmative defenses work might be too lenient or too stringent, but not grossly so. But the prosecution standard of beyond a reasonable doubt is a good one. It should absolutely not be softened.
 

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I believe that in a simple murder trial the burden should be on the state as to who did it.
But in cases where the killer comes forward and freely admits that they have killed the burden should definitely be on the killer to prove that it was justified.
It's too easy for murderers to get away with murder when all they need to do is make up a halfway convincing story that leaves any doubt and walk free only on a shred of doubt.
That's crazy.
In a one-on-one situation, a person could never prove they were innocent. So ... you are clearly the rapist's absolute best friend in wanting laws changed to protect the criminal and imprison the victim.

As per the Zimmerman case, the woman could prove he smashed her nose, was hitting her in the face, shamming her head into the concrete - and 100% of anti-Zimmerman people would convict her of murder or manslaughter. And are outraged the law would not do so as written in most states.
 

specklebang

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I've held no opinion on the case and I have to hope and presume the court got it right.

But I do have an opinion on the standard. I think it is inadequate. I think convicting someone should be "beyond a shadow of a doubt".
 

joko104

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The OP is not actually correct. That's not how affirmative defenses work. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's guilt. If it does so, the jury should convict. An affirmative defense, like self defense, is asserted by the defendant and the burden of persuasion is on them, not the prosecution. The required standard is preponderance of the evidence. That is, that the affirmative defense is more likely than not true, the jury then should acquit, or rather, can acquit. The particulars of how affirmative defenses work might be too lenient or too stringent, but not grossly so. But the prosecution standard of beyond a reasonable doubt is a good one. It should absolutely not be softened.
Since the GZ-TM case, nearly all Democrats and liberals want all presumption shifted to be against the defendant in 100% of self defense cases.
 

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The OP is not actually correct. That's not how affirmative defenses work. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's guilt. If it does so, the jury should convict. An affirmative defense, like self defense, is asserted by the defendant and the burden of persuasion is on them, not the prosecution. The required standard is preponderance of the evidence. That is, that the affirmative defense is more likely than not true, the jury then should acquit, or rather, can acquit. The particulars of how affirmative defenses work might be too lenient or too stringent, but not grossly so. But the prosecution standard of beyond a reasonable doubt is a good one. It should absolutely not be softened.
No, that is completely wrong (at least where I live). The burden never shifts to the defense.
 

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Think about how many people are mistakenly behind bars with this standard. Lowering it will just make that worse.
 

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Lest anyone think I'm full of ****. I've actually delt with self defense laws numerous times.

Many assumptions about trial tactics are inverted in a self-defense case. If the defendant presents some evidence on each of the elements of self-defense, then he or she is entitled to a jury instruction on the issue, which places the burden of proof squarely on the prosecutor to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to disprove self-defense, the client is acquitted. In practice, however, the defense attorney has a great deal of work to do in order to convince the jurors that the client's conduct fell within the common law of self-defense or within applicable state statutes.
http://aware.org/resources/legal-ar...ending-the-self-defense-case-by-lisa-j-steele
 

Paschendale

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Since the GZ-TM case, nearly all Democrats and liberals want all presumption shifted to be against the defendant in 100% of self defense cases.
That sounds like a steaming pile of partisan hackery. The problem in this case is that self defense is not available when the defendant instigates the situation (which Z did, regardless of who threw the first punch) and when the defendant escalates the amount of force, turning a non lethal encounter into a lethal one (arguable in this instance). The escalations of threat and force (stalking to a fistfight to use of a weapon) is allowed for the party who did not instigate the situation.

I would contend that the current trend is to ensure that self defense is not misapplied to armed men stalking and shooting unarmed teens. It is vigilantism that Americans do not tolerate, not self defense.

No, that is completely wrong (at least where I live). The burden never shifts to the defense.
I don't know what state you live in, but that's how affirmative defenses work. I looked up and read the Florida rules on affirmative defenses specifically right before typing that post. It means that you have to show evidence to support it. Preponderance is a pretty easy standard to meet. The same is also true of New York. Every defendant can, of course, put on absolutely no case and rely on the prosecution not proving their case, but in order to claim the defense of alibi, for example, a jury would be instructed not to acquit based on that defense unless they felt it was more likely than not true. Obviously they could and should still acquit if they do not think that the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

You are correct that the burden does not shift. These are two different burdens for two different assertions.
 
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I think convicting someone should be "beyond a shadow of a doubt".

So long as that shadow of a doubt is reasonable. If that doubt lies in the shadow of bias or emotion, you're entering dangerous territory.

I think the term reasonable doubt is sufficient since it is a term everyone understands, and what the general parameters require. That's just my opinion.
 

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That sounds like a steaming pile of partisan hackery. The problem in this case is that self defense is not available when the defendant instigates the situation (which Z did, regardless of who threw the first punch) and when the defendant escalates the amount of force, turning a non lethal encounter into a lethal one (arguable in this instance). The escalations of threat and force (stalking to a fistfight to use of a weapon) is allowed for the party who did not instigate the situation.

I would contend that the current trend is to ensure that self defense is not misapplied to armed men stalking and shooting unarmed teens. It is vigilantism that Americans do not tolerate, not self defense.
Knowing you just graduated from law school, I'm going to presume you are correct about the State's laws where you live. Those are some weird ones though. Where I live, precluding a defense the defendant wants to raise wouldn't happen. We believe in letting the defense put one on if they want and have the jury decide whether it applies or not.
 

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I've held no opinion on the case and I have to hope and presume the court got it right.

But I do have an opinion on the standard. I think it is inadequate. I think convicting someone should be "beyond a shadow of a doubt".
Beyond all possible doubt is an impossibility.
 

Paschendale

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Knowing you just graduated from law school, I'm going to presume you are correct about the State's laws where you live. Those are some weird ones though. Where I live, precluding a defense the defendant wants to raise wouldn't happen. We believe in letting the defense put one on if they want and have the jury decide whether it applies or not.
No one would be precluded from raising a defense. The standard of proof is what the jury is told to apply. The evidence isn't offered to the judge and then ruled on in a separate hearing to dismiss. It is offered to the jury. But the jury will be instructed to convict if they find the prosecution's case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and then instructed not to convict if they find the affirmative defense more likely true than not... even if they still find the prosecution's case proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a defendant-friendly system. The point is to allow separate determinations as opposed to simply putting all the evidence on a single sliding scale.

Taken as an example for this case, the prosecution could prove that Z killed Trayvon with malice aforethought beyond a reasonable doubt, but still have Z then prove that he was entitled to defend himself by preponderance of the evidence. That means acquittal, which is, I suspect, exactly what happened. I don't think he was entitled to that defense due to his instigation of the confrontation via stalking and intimidation, but I'm not on that jury. All I can really tell you is how the rules work.

Also, New York's laws are definitely not "weird ones". New York follows most majority rules and ends up defining many of them. But either way, the basic structure of an affirmative defense is universal as far as I know. I suppose that some states might simply not have them, but those would be the "weird ones". I don't know which state you live in, but I suspect it works the same way as New York and Florida. Any federal court certainly would.
 

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No... it's the right standard.

100 years ago people were sent to die in what was then a more universal application of the death penalty for very little evidence. I mean, there was the concept of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" but it was a lousy application because the methods that could be used to discover evidence were primitive in comparison to today. Since today we have "infinity" times more advanced methods of uncovering the truth, this concept of "prove beyond a reasonable doubt" should be ironclad. And as we progress further, technologically and socially, we should consider upping the standard.
 

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I'm especially interested in hearing from those who think Zimmerman should have been convicted based on the evidence presented at trial. The State not only had the burden of proving that Zimmerman killed Martin but once the Martin lawyers brought up self defense, the state had to disprove that it was self defense by that same high standard. I think it's clear the state could not meet that burden so I'm asking all you, especially those of you who think the verdict was unjust, is that burden just too high to put on the prosecutor?

Answers will be yes, no, and I don't know/maybe.

Working on poll.
Hopefully you know from any prior posts of mine on this issue that I did not follow the Zimmerman case and was content to let the legal system run it's course. I am also content with the jury's decision.

First I need to correct you on a legal point. The prosection has the burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if a defendant raises an affirmative defense, as in a claim of self-defense, then the burden shifts to the defense to prove this affirmative defense applies as a matter of law in order to convince the judge to dismiss the charges as a matter of law. The prosecution will argue against this effort, but it has nothing to do with reasonable doubt. They need only show that the defense is incorrect in it's application of the law. If the defense fails to convince the judge to dismiss the case they can file an objection for purposes of appeal; then the process resumes with the prosecution continuing with it's burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Next, the burden of proof is high because of the imbalance of power between the State, acting as the people's voice, and the defense. The State has an entire system set up and funded by taxpayers to handle criminal issues. Aside from the legal experts in the Prosecutors Office, there are police whose job is to investigate, Crime Scene Investigators whose job is to analyze evidence, Coroners who handle post-mortem examinations and medical evidence, Psychiatrists/Psychologists/Social workers who handle the mental, emotional and environmental analysis for the State. These are their full-time JOBS, and WE pay them to do this.

On the side of the Defendant? Whatever legal support his personal income can provide. Rich men can pay for private investigators, expert witnesses, etc. Poor men have to share time with underfunded Public Defenders whose budget does not allow for much in the way of investigation or expert support. Middle class defendants? They usually start out with a private attorney, then after getting into massive debt, often find themselves with Public Defenders after all.

So they NEED at least the "presumption of innocence" to stand any chance of success in court at all.
 
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