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Posts tagged ‘reasonable doubt’

4
Jan

an interview with the Honorable Stan Strickland

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17
Sep

STOP the MURDER of Troy Davis

The Troy Davis story is yet another reason to rage against the death penalty. 

Save Troy Davis Image credit: NAACP

It is inconceivable to me that a single person should die for a crime they did not commit, or could not have committed due to evidence corruption.

When there are countless executions of the wrong perpetrator, shouldn’t that tell us something?  Shouldn’t that be reason enough to STOP this practice of killing people?

The possible execution of Troy Davis is yet another travesty resulting from the clearly arcane Death Penalty sentence.

Despite no physical evidence, and countless “eye witnesses” recanting their original testimony that Mr. Davis committed the murder, he is nonetheless scheduled to die on Georgia’s Death Row on September 21, 2001 for the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.

When a police officer dies, it is a horribly tragic event, there is no denying this truth.  Likewise, if there are countless witnesses saying they were wrong about Mr. Davis being the killer, and name another subject as the killer, it is also wrong.  Sadly, this is the scenario with the Troy Davis case.

The fact is, no physical evidence connected Davis to the murder. Seven of the original nine witnesses have recanted, with many saying their testimony was a result of law enforcement pressure. Of the remaining witnesses, one is highly suspect and the other could be the actual culprit in the officer’s murder.

Now, despite these and other facts, the state of Georgia has taken the final steps toward Davis’ execution — and only the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole stands between Davis and the lethal injection chamber. ~The Color of Change.org

Troy Davis, was at the scene of the crime, and is an accessory to the murder – but too many new witnesses have come forward and implicated the person Troy was with, Sylvester Coles, as the shooter.  EVERY witness BUT Sylvestor Coles now puts the murder weapon in Coles’ hands.  Not surprisingly, Coles is the only witness who has not changed his story.

This is a case in which the meaning of Reasonable Doubt is turned on its proverbial head to mean any doubt will do. 

The application of Reasonable Doubt is the cornerstone or our criminal justice system, but when it goes awry and innocent people die because of it, there is nothing more heinous. 

This dangerous game of Russian Roulette with the life of a fellow human being should never happen.  But it is happening.  It is wrong, wrong, wrong in every sense of the word.

This is the Huffington Post story I read this morning that got my blood boiling hot: The Execution of Troy Davis – – A Mother’s Story, by Martina Davis-Correia, as told to Jen Marlowe and Monifa Bandele.

Ever since  reading about the fight for Troy’s life by his sister and nephew, I have tried to do what I can to get the word out about this case.

If you have a moment, I hope you will, too.

Feel free to reblog, tweet or share this post on Facebook, or MySpace, etc.

Better yet, go to the multiple sites (listed below) who are bringing attention and support to Troy Davis.

Visit these sites for further direction on how you may take action:

The uncertain fate of Georgia Death Row inmate, Troy Davis, is plain wrong.   Please help to educate your friends and family regarding this case, and the Death Penalty.

19
Apr

for the sake of reasonable doubt…vroom-vroom!

An interesting Defense motion (click to read), was released today in which the Defense, in the State v. Casey Anthony case, maintains that, in the name of reasonable doubt, the Court should allow the Defense to proffer, at trial, Anthony’s statements to Drs. Danziger and Weitz, mental health experts who recently examined her.

The Defense argues that the contents of these mental health reports include statements from Casey Anthony, that support their theory of reasonable doubt, and therefore should be admissible at trial.

When a defense can offer evidence to support its theory of the case – and it tends to support its claims of reasonable doubt – the Court usually finds it admissible, as courts never want to inhibit evidence that tends to support reasonable doubt.  When the court rules against such proffers of testimony or evidence from the defense, it can be construed as error by an Appeals Court.

HOWEVER…. This situation is completely different.  This is testimony from expert witnesses that the defense wants to use IN PLACE of Anthony’s testimony.  Furthermore, the State had the opportunity to depose these experts, but the defense pulled these witnesses from their case, and the State deposition was halted (presumably something unfavorable to the defense was revealed – we do not know what).  The State may have learned of information that would benefit them, and/or the defense heard testimony that would harm their case, though it’s not clear what transpired.

And now? Well, the defense would like to use the statements that Anthony made to these experts in the trial.  Presumably to explain away the 31 days.   Judge Perry will hardly allow the defense to do this – how can they even dream of using a substitute, unchallenged by the state, to testify for the Defendant??  It won’t happen, despite it being germane to the defense’s theory of reasonable doubt.  The Defense can’t use only what’s “beneficial” to them!

This request is another Hail Mary pass.  It’s the fourth quarter, 15 seconds on the clock, and the ball is in the air.  Oops.  The ball is blocked and caught by the opposing team and….. Touchdown!   (Hail Mary’s are desperate measures by a desperate team.)

The only way the defense will get testimony about those 31 days – when Casey was on the lamb – is to put her sorry self on the stand.  Additionally, the only way the theory of “a pool accident” will come into the trial is to put Casey on the stand.  The only way to support Casey’s claims of doing her own investigation of Caylee’s “disappearance” would be to put her on the stand. The only way to suggest Casey was molested by a family member is to put her on the stand (or the Defense may ask Lee or George if they engaged in this behavior with Casey).

Could Casey Anthony’s testimony create the reasonable doubt the defense needs?  Hardly.

Regardless, the only way the defense can “spin” any of Casey’s stories would be to put her on the stand. But it would be a disaster.  If we see Casey Anthony take the stand, it would mean the defense is throwing its last Hail Mary pass of the game…. and it would be a disaster.

George Anthony = Reasonable Doubt

On the recent 48 Hours No-Mystery Scam Show, Mr. Baez, Cheney, and even Ms. Kenney Baden, would neither deny or confirm that George Anthony was going to be part of their defense reasonable doubt strategy.

After seeing the WKMG Click Orlando video clip (click here for video), that the defense wants to enter into evidence, the signs are pointing to this: 

VROOM-VROOM, smell that diesel fuel?  That’s George being thrown under the bus.

The clip I’m referring is an August 2008 video that shows the Henkel duct tape on a table at the Anthony’s Command Center.

George had access to that duct tape.  George had access to the gas can.  George had access to Caylee, and on and on and on they’ll go to blame George.

These are desperate measures for a desperate defense to destroy an already destroyed George Anthony.

Vroom – Vroom………

Poor George. 

18
Apr

defining reasonable doubt

Reasonable Doubt.  Sounds simple enough, right?  In truth, it can be a tough burden.

I was browsing through the court filings in this case – www.ninthcircuit.org – and came across a Defense motion that objects to the use of the standard Florida jury instruction with regards to reasonable doubt.  It was very interesting.  Here’s the link to the defense document:  WRITTEN OBJECTION TO THE STANDARD JURY INSTRUCTION ON REASONABLE DOUBT

This motion, written by Andrea Lyon and Jose Baez, opposes the standard definition of reasonable doubt.  The defense supplies its proposed verbiage to instruct the jury on reasonable doubt for both the Guilt Phase and the Penalty Phase of the trial and its aftermath.

Before discussing Florida’s definition of Reasonable Doubt, I want to include the definition of reasonable and doubt from my American Version of the Oxford Dictionary to see how we fare in our understanding of the words.

Reasonable: 

adj.1 having sound judgment. 2 not absurd. 3a not excessive; inexpensive. b tolerable; fair.

Doubt:

n.1 uncertainty; undecided state of mind. 2 inclination to disbelieve. 3 uncertain state of things. 4 lack of full proof.  v.1 tr. feel uncertain or undecided about. 2tr. hesitate to believe or trust. 3intr. feel uncertain or undecided.  4 tr.  call in question.

Because the definition both of “reasonable” and “doubt” are subjective, it stands to reason why the court attempts to define it in such as way as “reasonable” people can apply their own ethical thermometer to the amount (or level) of reasonable doubt they apply to the question of guilt or non-guilt.

No doubt every juror comes to the table with their own meaning of reasonable doubt no matter what instruction is provided to them.

Is it reasonable to conclude that what you believe is reasonable and what I believe is reasonable will be as different as day is from night?

In “Taming of the Shrew,” characters Petruccio and Kate argue over this very question!  He says it’s day, she says night.  Are they both wrong?  Are day and night really different?  The sun and moon are different, but it’s still Monday.

What is reasonable?  Every person on the jury will apply their own background, culture, and perhaps educational background to its meaning as they listen to a case.  I did as a juror.  But, when deliberation begins, individual remembrances of the evidence and testimony becomes like a patchwork that’s collectively sewn together into agreement.

Anyway, below is the standard jury instruction that defines reasonable doubt and aggravating circumstances, for the jury:

 Florida’s Standard Jury Instruction in Criminal Cases defines reasonable doubt as follows:

A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt.  Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt.  On the other hand, if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if, having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find the defendant not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.

It is to the evidence introduced in this trial and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.

A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendant may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence, or the lack of evidence.

Proposed Instruction on Reasonable Doubt for Guilt Phase

As I have said many times, the government has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Some of you may have served as jurors in civil cases, where you were told that it is only necessary to prove that a fact is more likely true than not true.  In criminal cases, the government’s proof must be more powerful than that.  It must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.  There are very few things in this world that we know with absolute certainty, and in criminal cases, the law does not require proof that overcomes every possible doubt.  If, based on your consideration of the evidence, you are firmly convinced that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged, you must find him guilty.  If on the other hand, you think there is real possibility that he is not guilty, you must give him the benefit of the doubt and find him not guilty.

Proposed Instruction on Reasonable Doubt for Penalty Phase

As I have said many times, the government has the burden of proving each aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt.  Some of you may have served as jurors in civil cases, where you were told that it is only necessary to prove that a fact is more likely true than not true.  In criminal cases, the government’s proof must be more powerful than that.  It must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you firmly convinced that an aggravating circumstance exists. There are very few things in this world that we know with absolute certainty, and in criminal cases, the law does not require proof that overcomes every possible doubt.  If, based on your consideration of the evidence, you are firmly convinced that the aggravating circumstance exists, you must find that it exists and give it whatever weight you determine it should receive.  If on the other hand, you think there is real possibility that aggravating circumstance does not exist, you must give the defendant the benefit of the doubt and find that it does not exist.

What’s Next in the Case

This is going to be another interesting week in the State v. Casey Anthony case.  Judge Perry is scheduled to rule on the Frye motions on or before the 21st of April (Thursday). The next status hearing is scheduled on the 21st, too, though I am not aware of the start time.

I predict the State will prevail and everything comes in!

8
Jan

beyond a reasonable doubt

When Casey Anthony was arrested, like any other American citizen facing any criminal charge, she had the right to an attorney, and the right to stay silent.  This Fifth Amendment Right exists because, ordinary folks like you and I need help maneuvering through government systems that are bigger and more powerful than little ole’ us.  We could inadvertently incriminate ourselves by talking to the police, even when we’re innocent.

In the Casey Anthony case, so much of what she has already said will come back to haunt her and her defense counsel.  Everything she has said will have great impact when the State of Florida has it’s say in trial.  A good defense attorney will try to find a way to have prior statements thrown out of the trial for any number of reasons, not the least of which, because they are incriminating.  But sometimes the statements were given under duress, sometimes confessions are dragged out of suspects after hours of intense interrogation.  There are times when it’s only just that statements get thrown out.

Defense attorneys help us help ourselves against saying something that could incriminate us later on.  When a person is charged with a crime, or thinks they are going to be charged with a crime, or if they have committed a crime, you will hear lawyers say: Do not talk!

At trial, the State of Florida has the burden of proof; they must obtain a unanimous decision from 12 jurors that the defendant is guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the burden in criminal cases.  In civil cases, the burden is different.  In civil court, a person is deemed culpable if the standard of “by a preponderance of the evidence” is met.

In criminal cases, the defense cannot prove “innocence”.  The Defense need only sit back and watch the State’s case unfold to determine it they met the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. However, it’s a tough standard because you are dealing with jurors who are only human, so the defense will want to make sure they upset the State’s case by picking apart their work on the case, and the evidence.  Defense attorneys look for the weaknesses, looking to see sensitivities in the underbelly of the State’s case to cast doubt on as many different aspects as possible.

I was a juror on a criminal case, quite a while ago.  It was a case in which a defendant was charged with revealing himself in public to a young girl, she was about 12 at the time.  The defendant lived near the young girl who said this disgusting man did often reveal himself to her – targeting her in particular.

During the trial, the State did a good job bringing forward their witnesses, who claimed to also have seen this defendant lurking around the area, and even had seen this young girl run from this man.  Effective evidence, I recall.

The Defense never cross-examined the young girl, who by the way, could not identify the defendant in the courtroom.  The defendant had completely changed his hair, grew a mustache, and was much heavier than when the crime had been committed.  He looked completely different and the young girl didn’t recognize him.  The Defense attorney used that fact to the jury in his closing arguments. But, we, the jury, knew better.  We were shown how the Defendant used to look and understood that it would be difficult for anyone to identify him now.

The reasonable doubt in this case?  Well, the defense brought in pictures of a gentleman from the same neighborhood who closely matched the description of the defendant – the way he “used” to look.  The Defense counselor told the jury that the witnesses could have seen the man in the pictures, not his client.

The problem we had, however, the man in the picture was never produced as a witness.  We never heard from him at trial.  We had only his picture.  Now, one woman on the jury thought that was reasonable doubt – because it “could” have been the man in the picture, since he so resembled the defendant, and since the young girl did not recognize the Defendant, perhaps it WAS the guy in the picture who did this.

Well, this woman – the lone holdout on the jury, didn’t hold out for long once she listened to the other members of the jury explain why they thought the Defendant was guilty.  She very quickly changed her mind.

So, that reasonable doubt was not in the least bit reasonable to my jury.

Needless to say, I remember thinking, “Boy, this Defense attorney must think we’re pretty stupid!”

Would you be surprised if the jurors in the Casey Anthony case feel the same?

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