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What is Reasonable Doubt?

When a person is on trial, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard of proof. The defense actually doesn’t need to present any evidence whatsoever. If they feel the prosecution has not proven their case, they can simply rest and let the jury decide. In most cases, however, a defense lawyer will try to present evidence of the defendant’s innocence but they are under no obligation to do so. Therefore it is important for the defendant to understand just what “reasonable doubt” actually is.

Even though this term is so important, there really isn’t a set definition. In general, it is the definition that there can be no “reasonable doubt” in the mind of a “reasonable person.” In New Jersey, in State v Linker, the judge defined it thusly: It is that state of the case which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction to a moral certainty of the truth of the charge.

It is important to note that reasonable doubt is different than possible doubt. In most criminal cases, no juror can be 100% certain that the crime was committed, leaving some element of doubt in their mind. For example, even if DNA evidence is found that connects a person to a sexual assault, there could be a chance that this person has an unknown brother who actually committed the crime. Obviously, the possibility of this is remote but certainly not impossible. But a reasonable person would likely conclude that this explanation, without evidence to prove it, is extremely unlikely.

By questioning the evidence of the prosecution, it is possible for a Portland defense lawyer to build reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors. Since a jury must be unanimous in their verdict, even creating reasonable doubt in one person’s mind is enough to prevent conviction. (This would result in a hung jury and the person could then be retried.)

At Kroll & Johnson, we do everything possible to build reasonable doubt about our clients’ guilt. We carefully examine the evidence to find problems that may exist or do what we can to prove our clients’ innocence. For a free consultation in Portland about your Oregon criminal matter, contact a defense lawyer at Kroll & Johnson right away.

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