REASONABLE DOUBT - The level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime. A real doubt, based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, or lack of evidence, in a case.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, 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. However, it does not mean an absolute certainty.
The meaning of reasonable doubt can be arrived at by emphasizing the word reasonable. It is not a surmise, a guess or mere conjecture.1 It is not a doubt suggested by counsel which is not warranted by the evidence.2 It is such a doubt as, in serious affairs that concern you, you would heed; that is, such a doubt as would cause reasonable men and women to hesitate to act upon it in matters of importance.3 It is not hesitation springing from any feelings of pity or sympathy for the accused or any other persons who might be affected by your decision. It is, in other words, a real doubt, an honest doubt, a doubt that has its foundation in the evidence or lack of evidence.4 It is doubt that is honestly entertained and is reasonable in light of the evidence after a fair comparison and careful examination of the entire evidence.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all doubt; the law does not require absolute certainty on the part of the jury before it returns a verdict of guilty. The law requires that, after hearing all the evidence, if there is something in the evidence or lack of evidence that leaves in the minds of the jurors, as reasonable men and women, a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused, then the accused must be given the benefit of that doubt and acquitted.5 Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that precludes every reasonable hypothesis except guilt and is inconsistent with any other rational conclusion.6