My goal is to help you become certain beyond a reasonable doubt that law school is the right decision for you.
“A reasonable doubt is just precisely what it says. It is a real doubt based upon reason and common sense after a careful and impartial consideration of all of the evidence in the case. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, stated a little bit differently, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs.” United States v. Daniels, 986 F.2d 451, opinion withdrawn and superseded in part on rehearing, 5 F.3d 495 (11th Cir. 1993).
If you decide to go to law school, it will be “the most important of your own affairs” and it deserves serious consideration!
What This Does Not Mean
- Mathematical certainty
- Certainty beyond all possible doubt
- Any possible doubt
- Certainly quantifiable to any specific percentage
The goal is not 100% certainty. It doesn’t exist.
A Little More About the Reasonable Doubt Standard of Proof
“To explain why I think this so, I begin by stating two propositions, neither of which I believe can be fairly disputed. First, in a judicial proceeding in which there is a dispute about the facts of some earlier event, the factfinder cannot acquire unassailably accurate knowledge of what happened. Instead, all the factfinder can acquire is a belief of what probably happened. The intensity of this belief — the degree to which a factfinder is convinced that a given act actually occurred — can, of course, vary. In this regard, a standard of proof represents an attempt to instruct the factfinder concerning the degree of confidence our society thinks he should have in the correctness of factual conclusions for a particular type of adjudication. Although the phrases “preponderance of the evidence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” are quantitatively imprecise, they do communicate to the finder of fact different notions concerning the degree of confidence he is expected to have in the correctness of his factual conclusions.”In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 370 (1970).
“There is always, in litigation, a margin of error, representing error in factfinding, which both parties must take into account. Where one party has at stake an interest of transcending value — as a criminal defendant his liberty — this margin of error is reduced as to him by the process of placing on the other party the burden of . . . persuading the factfinder at the conclusion of the trial of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Due process commands that no man shall lose his liberty unless the Government has borne the burden of . . . convincing the factfinder of his guilt.” Speiser v. Randall, 357 U. S. 513, 525-526