Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

It’s Not Beyond Reasonable Doubt

A 2014 study suggests that at least 4.1% of all people sentenced to death in the US are innocent. That’s a disturbingly high number. What’s even more disturbing is that every one of these people got put on death row by a jury who knew beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty.

‘Beyond a reasonable doubt’ requires the highest possible level of proof.

To put that into perspective, imagine the following.

You just left your house to go to a ballgame and brought everything you need with you: phone, wallet keys, tickets. As you pull out of the driveway, you hit the brakes and reach inside your coat pocket.

The ballgame tickets are still there, right where you left them a moment ago.

Although you KNEW you put the tickets inside your coat, you still checked because you didn’t want to reach the stadium empty handed.

That teensy shred of doubt does not qualify as ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’

Why then are courtrooms always filled with suspense when the jury enters the room with their final verdict?

If you have to be more sure about the defendant’s guilt than the whereabouts of your ballgame tickets, surely everyone inside the courtroom would know exactly what was coming.

Yet if you watch any high profile case, the jury’s verdict always leads some people to sigh with relief and others to howl in disgust. Even the people that spent just as much time in court as the jury—the judge, lawyers, deputy, and courtroom reporter—will be just as surprised about the jury’s verdict as the rest.

How can this be if it’s beyond reasonable doubt?

Because it’s malarkey.

If courtrooms had two juries to observe the case at the same time and come up with independent verdicts, the two juries ought to reach the same conclusion. Yet we all know that wouldn’t be a guarantee.

Take the O.J. Simpson trial. 

Witnesses saw him at the murder scene, blood of the victims was found on and inside his car, a glove with one of the victim’s blood on it was found near his home, Simpson tried to escape the police on the day of his arrest which ended in a two-hour long car chase, and he changed alibis halfway through the trial.

Every half-decent jury would find him guilty. Yet the jury that went over his case didn’t.

That’s because the phrase ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ doesn’t mean what it says.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach