Term of the Day
Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Definition - What does Beyond Reasonable Doubt mean?
Beyond Reasonable Doubt is a phrase signifying the standard of evidence that is necessary and required to validate a criminal conviction in the legal or justice system.
Basically, the prosecution has to prove to the judge and jury that the defendent indeed committed the crime without question, showing this through multiple means of evidence and testimony. The phrase is considered the highest standard of proof in the criminal justice system. The case presented by the prosecution must be clear, concise, true, convincing, and evident in every way, shape, or form. The phrase is also referred to at times as "to a moral certainty." Jurors are reminded that if the defendent is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, it affects their future in a dramatic way; and determining the case, could result in the defendent's financial or personal future, whether it ends in fines, time in prison, or in some states, execution.
Where the Phrase Originated
Back in 1880, there was a case presented in the United States Supreme Court called Miles v. United States. Court records show how beyond reasonable doubt was implied for the very first time:
"The evidence upon which a jury is justified in returning a verdict of guilty must be sufficient to produce a conviction of guilt, to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt."
How it Works in the United States
In the United States criminal justice system, a person assigned to jury duty is always instructed to look at the case with an open frame of mind, assuming that the defendent is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, "reasonable doubt" must be present in the jury's mind while the prosecution presents its case against the defendent. However, if the prosecution does an effective job in proving that the defendent is guilty beyond a resonable doubt, the jury can decide if a guilty verdict is appropriate for the case.