Is it Finally Time to Put 'Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt' Out to Pasture?
25 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2011
Date Written: April 19, 2011
This paper diagnoses several of the liabilities of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, including its subjectivity, its ambiguity, and its presumed universal applicability across all crimes and all defendants. It argues further that the Supreme Court's repeated claims that this standard follows logically from an acknowledgement that false convictions are worse than false acquittals is an unsound inference. Finally, it proposes that future discussions of the standard of proof should take place in an environment in which detailed empirical information about the error rates at trial should be the engine driving the re-formulation of the standard of proof.
Keywords: proof beyond a reasonable doubt, standard of proof, error rates
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By Peter A. Joy