Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reasonable Doubt and Presumption of Innocence

After the verdict in the Anthony case, many commentators have criticized the jury. Consider, however, the rules that a jury must follow. In the state of Florida, the standard final instructions to a jury include the following:
The defendant has entered a plea of not guilty. This means you must presume or believe the defendant is innocent. The presumption stays with the defendant as to each material allegation in the [information] [indictment] through each stage of the trial unless it has been overcome by the evidence to the exclusion of and beyond a reasonable doubt.

To overcome the defendant's presumption of innocence the State has the burden of proving the crime with which the defendant is charged was committed and the defendant is the person who committed the crime.

The defendant is not required to present evidence or prove anything.

Whenever the words “reasonable doubt” are used you must consider the following:
A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt. Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt. On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.
A defendant may request the following instructions:
The constitution requires the State to prove its accusations against the defendant. It is not necessary for the defendant to disprove anything. Nor is the defendant required to prove [his] [her] innocence. It is up to the State to prove the defendant's guilt by evidence.

The defendant exercised a fundamental right by choosing not to be a witness in this case. You must not view this as an admission of guilt or be influenced in any way by [his] [her] decision. No juror should ever be concerned that the defendant did or did not take the witness stand to give testimony in the case

As for this case, you may see and hear portions of the instructions: