Think back to the Casey Anthony case. Many people were outraged when she was not convicted of murdering her daughter. Many people were upset and confused by the verdict in the case. As some of the jurors have now said, they based their decision on whether the prosecution could prove her guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” They cited things like the lack of a time of death, the coroner’s inability to say how the child died, the general lack of any scientific proof linking her to the crime, or even a solid motive on the part of the defendant. They have also said that did not mean they felt she was innocent.
So, what does “reasonable doubt” mean? Does it mean any doubt? Does it mean a lot of doubts? Will any alternative theory cause a juror to think twice about a conviction? How can a prosecutor ever prove a case that doesn’t have an eye witness or video tape or DNA evidence – a circumstantial case like the Anthony one? Can a juror have a little doubt and still convict if they can sleep at night thinking they made the right decision? What if it is a death penalty case, as this was? Do jurors interpret the term more strictly? Why?