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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: What Does that Really Mean to Jurors?

The burden of proof is on prosecutors. They must prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

Posted 5 years ago by Jim Titus

During a full trial, prosecutors must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. When jurors determine their verdict of guilt, they have to do so beyond a reasonable doubt.

But what does that really mean? Does it mean more than meets the eye? And who is to say what “beyond reasonable” is?

What is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

Before prosecutors present their cases, jurors are informed about how to decide on the case. Determining guilt beyond a reasonable doubt protects everyone involved, including the jurors, the defendant, the attorneys, and even the taxpayers who are paying for the cost of the trial.

Clearly, the rule exists to ensure innocent people aren’t sent to prison, but it also provides some peace of mind for the jurors and anyone else involved in the case.

The jury must determine if a prosecutor proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed a crime.

In order to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, the prosecutor’s “burden of proof” is based on several principles:

• Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion:

This is focused more on law enforcement officers’ initial reason for stopping the individual. It can’t be simply a hunch; officers must have a clear reason for stopping the individual.

• Probable Cause:

A sufficient reason to believe a crime has been committed should be based on facts. An individual should not be arrested without probable cause being established.

• Preponderance of the Evidence:

The weight of testimony that may reveal the truth of the case is considered. This is about quality over quantity.

• Clear and Convincing Evidence:

The evidence must be highly and substantially more likely to be true than untrue.

While beyond a reasonable doubt can be subjective, the four other burdens are more objective, although they can be debated as well. A case that solidly presents the first four therefore may culminate in the ultimate conclusion of guilt.

The Trial Process

If you have recently been arrested in Michigan, Ohio, or Indiana, you probably have many questions about what will happen in the days ahead. See our Detroit Bail Bonds blog page for general, basic information about arrest procedures, bail bonds, and the court process.

(The blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. For more detailed information about the trial process or any other legal matter, consult with a qualified attorney.)

See our Detroit Bail Bonds blog page to learn more about Michigan crime news, the bail process, and general legal matters.


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