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
First, I like your tagline.
I'm not arguing merely that there was reasonable doubt in the Scott Peterson trial and that the prosecution failed to meet its burden. I'm arguing a more basic threshhold that was never met: there was lack of an evidentiary foundation for the murder charge ever to have been filed. Any judge or grand jury not prejudiced by the media-induced lynch-mob mentality against Scott Peterson -- solely because of his lousy character and lack of credibility, not because there was actual evidence he committed a murder -- should have thrown the case out at the point when the prosecution brought them a case without an ME's finding of a cause of death much less a known method of homicide, no eyewitnesses to either crime or threats, no crime scene, no compelling evidence of planning or conspiracy, no murder weapon, no trace evidence not explainable by common transference.