Conviction Reversed on Technicality
In a 2-1 vote, the Third District Court of Appeals recently overturned a guilty verdict in a sexual assault trial, because the judge gave the jury a definition of “reasonable doubt” during deliberations. In response to a question, the judge told the Tazewell County jury that the meaning of “reasonable doubt” was “for you to determine.” The appeals court ruled that this statement constituted a definition, which is prohibited under state law.
In his dissent, Justice Daniel Schmidt argued that the trial judge correctly applied the law, because the definition of “reasonable doubt” is indeed up to the jury’s discretion in a criminal law case.
The defendant had been sentenced to 11 years in prison, and although he remains in jail without bond, his sentence has been suspended pending retrial.
Burden of Proof
In criminal cases, a prosecutor must prove that a defendant is guilty of each element of an offense beyond any reasonable doubt. The state has both the burden of production and burden of persuasion; in other words, there must be admissible evidence that clearly points to a guilty verdict and a prosecutor must convince a jury that a defendant is guilty because of this evidence.
The standard of proof is much lower in civil cases, where liability can be established by a preponderance of the evidence. Picture two equally-sized stacks of paper next to each other. If one sheet of paper is moved from the left to the right, that is the image of a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), because the stack on the right is higher than the one on the left.
The bottom line is that it is very hard to prove a criminal case. Many times, there may be certain evidence that a defendant is guilty, but not enough to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. In that case, the defendant goes free. The recent high profile trials of Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman are excellent examples of this principle at work. Either may very well have been guilty; however, there was not enough evidence to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Even if there is some evidence of your guilt, an experienced Fairfield County criminal defense attorney can still successfully fight for you in court. Call the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner today at 203-348-5846 today to schedule a free initial consultation.