Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Movie: The Issues That Are Related to Criminal Justice
Put simply, the rule against double jeopardy prevents an accused from being tried again for the same offence. It obviously prevents the tribunal from getting at the truth. There are good policy reasons for the rule. It is a fundamental rule.
Recognizing that the BARD standard is not actually maximally high raises the question: How far short of a maximally high standard should the SOP for criminal convictions be? Before addressing that question, however, it will be helpful to have a fuller picture of the Court’s reasoning in support of adopting an SOP that aims to be as high as practically possible, without making it unduly difficult to obtain a conviction. As already noted, one reason that Justice Brennan gave is that it is important that individuals “have confidence that [their] government cannot adjudge them] guilty of a criminal offense without convincing a proper fact finder of [their] guilt with utmost certainty.”Brennan’s five other reasons appealed to: (1) the BARD standard’s historical pedigree; (2) the constitutional argument that the BARD standard is implicit in the presumption of innocence and due process of law; (3) the idea that a lower standard would put the defendant “at a severe disadvantage . . . amounting to a lack of fundamental fairness;”(4) the moral importance of a defendant’s “good name and freedom;” and (5) the concern that “the moral force of the criminal law not be diluted by a standard of proof that leaves people in doubt whether innocent men are being condemned.”
Both of these clarifications are easy to explain and are of the utmost importance because jurors are often found to not understand them. With jury instructions that take these standards into account, jurors will have sufficient individual flexibility while still being able to avoid some of the fernicious effects caused by implicit biases (Thomas Mulrine, 1997). This solution is compatible with a reasonable doubt standard that changes based on the severity of a crime or sentencing (a cost-benefit model of reasonable doubt). This could be achieved by giving the jury information while they are constructing their reasonable doubt exemplars, so as to influence these mental models. For example, “while thinking about what constitutes a reasonable doubt, one should keep in mind that the current case carries with it the possibility of death.”Jurors would thus be free to take the penalty into consideration when constructing their reasonable doubt mental model (Jon O. Newman, 1993).
Ultimately, there are indications that, except perhaps in small towns or rural settings, what newspapers print is not controlling with'jurors. Real juror bias does exist, though, and the criminal justice system still has a way to go in developing better techniques to ferret it out. That problem, however, should not be laid at the media's feet. A criminal trial serves a distinct function in our society: it imposes punishment and (usually) stigma on an individual for violating its laws.
Robert C. Power, Reasonable and Other Doubts: The Problem of Jury Instruction, 67 Tenn. L. Rev. 45, 47 (1999)
Jon O. Newman, Beyond “Reasonable Doubt,” 68 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 979, 984 (1993)
Thomas Mulrine, Note and Comment, Reasonable Doubt: How in the World is it Defined?, 12 Am. U. J. Int’l L. & Pol’y 195, 198 (1997)