Can someone explain to me what "reasonable doubt" is in layman's terms?

Some example and usage in some context wouldn be helpful.


Most Helpful Guy

  • In laymans terms it is up to the prosecution to prove defendant did crime beyond ALL REASONABLE DOUBT if the jury have any doubt at all they must acquit even if they think defendant did it but there is not enough evidence.


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What Girls Said 1

  • Do you mean 'beyond reasonable doubt' in legal terms? It would mean that any normal ('reasonable') person would be able to be presented with the evidence the court has been given and would only come to one conclusion - innocent or guilty. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are innocent or guilty, but if you prove someone guilty beyond reasonable doubt, it just means that all of the evidence points towards that conclusion.


What Guys Said 1

  • Reasonable doubt is when a hypothesis seems about as likely as an alternative explanation.

    For example, a person discovers a baseball inside her home next to pieces of a broken window. One hypothesis is that a baseball game being played across the street is the source of the situation, and another is that somebody unrelated to the game threw it through the window and left. To me that would NOT be a reasonable doubt (but still possible). OTOH, if the alternative hypothesis were that the source of the baseball was from a different baseball game being played next door to the first one, that would be a reasonable doubt.

    What's reasonable is subjective and many things have to be considered to decide if one explanation in total is reasonable or not.

    • Yeah but what's the usage of this term in the court?

    • I'm not an attorney so understand that I might be wrong. My understanding is that in a criminal trial prosecutors must present their case, which is essentially a hypothesis supported by evidence, accompanied by arguments about why the theory + evidence is true. Defense doesn't have to prove anything; they only have to provide a plausible alternative theory for each individual argument or piece of evidence.

      The more evidence prosecution has, the harder it is to cast reasonable doubt on the case. One explanation for everything is almost always more believable than a bunch of different explanations that all coincidentally happened.

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