In the outcome of the trial of Casey Anthony on July 5, 2011, it seems
that reasonable doubt has acquitted a defendant many thought
mathematically vague word at best, seems a moderate concept, one not as
extreme as the parts per million magnitude that is currently assigned
to its association with legal doubt
except there be an equally extreme
sleight of words.
I have read the Constitution at times and do not recall it citing this
term. Many law precepts have developed as a result of the
practice of use, as our system regards the sum of past verdicts to be a
body of law unto itself apart from any legislative process.
The concept of reasonable doubt gained legal validity by use by this
the Supreme Court validated it concretely in 1970.
James Q. Whitman of the Yale Law School attributes this term as
originating from the Christian world view prevalent at the time of the
founding of our country.1
Juries were actually
reluctant to pass judgment on felons for fear of wronging a possible
innocent. For this reason, prosecutors argued "reasonable doubt"
to help Christian
jurors overcome moral difficulties in passing judgment.
At issue was moral certainty. To commit some act in spite of
questions of conscience without moral certainty is to endanger one's
soul. Therefore, making the more certain of ambiguous moral
choices is to guard one's soul. The juror who condemned the
accused with thoughts that he may actually be innocent then committed
sin, making acquittal the default moral choice.
Reasonable doubt was then a religious argument for the morality of
convicting an actual criminal by arguing the moral certainty of doing
so. Surely God would not hold the fair execution of the law
against those who executed it, especially as he also required the
punishment of wrongdoers as much as the fairness of their prosecution.
It seems that in the rush to remove God from our society, a legal term
has lost its original meaning and taken on another. A term used
during the time of the writing of the Constitution to increase odds of
convicting the guilty is now most cited to protect the innocent on
supposed Constitutional grounds. A legal pundit commenting on the
outcome of the Casey Anthony trial, said that our system is not meant
to serve justice, but to protect the innocent. Odd, considering
their advocacy of social justice. Perhaps he should have said
that the process of law does not guarantee justice, in which case many
have seen obvious application. In spite of these things, God
is good; and what doth the LORD require
of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with
thy God? (Micah 6:8)
Perhaps due the change in meaning from that of Constitutional times,
principle should rather be called unreasonable
reserving the term reasonable doubt for that which gives
priority to justice in a way equally concerned with punishing the
guilty as protecting the innocent.
Any original definition of reasonable
would also have facilitated the prosecution of the
circumstantial cases that the lack of forensic science made the default
in the founding years of our nation. In the years to come, it may
become more necessary to prosecute
circumstantial cases. Giving protected religious status to occult
religions increases the odds of prosecuting witchcraft related
invisible covert technology, and
electronic harassment complicate investigations sometimes
producing important circumstantial evidence. Even the economy may
make forensic science too expensive for use by some localities.
All these stand to be undermined by the principle of unreasonable
. If you think these unlikely, consider that a
San Francisco was acquitted relating to
pedophilia charges where the victims' families insisted that the
charges were valid and justice
had not been served.
After all this, public outrage at the outcome of Casey Anthony's trial
may not be entirely about matters of law. Two trials proceeded in
parallel: the actual legal trial and the media trial, the media
trial gaining a two and a half year propaganda advantage.
Expecting the actual verdict to follow the media verdict of guilty, the
actual verdict was a contradiction and a surprise.
of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecc
1James Q. Whitman, "The
Origins of 'Reasonable Doubt,'" 2005, Yale Law School Legal Scholarship
Repository. I took to this idea easily enough to give an
explanation entirely my own.
2Meaning: so widespread as to
appear present everywhere.
July 7, 2011 Created.