It seems like proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a subjective-objective test. It reflects a fact-finder's degree of certainty regarding the guiltiness of the defendant, but it is also subject to that fact-finder's definition of that degree. Harlan thinks the standard reflects ours--and thus, the fact-finder's--desire to protect the defendant, but the standard consistently fails in this respect; most trials result in conviction. Algorithms written mostly by white men reflect/perpetuate their biases; legal standards do too.
Reasonable doubt is a standard of proof that the criminal courts use to ensure the error of wrongfully convicting an innocent person is low. It is not a probabilistic concept, rather it is an instruction to the fact finder what level of confidence we require for the assessment that they will make as to the defendant's guilt or innocence, which will likely deprive the defendant of their liberty, property, or even their life. It's also a measure of reassurance for the public that they will know its only with the highest degree of confidence that these rights will be taken away.
Where there is reasonable doubt as to whether a fact exists, reasonable minds could come to different conclusions. I suppose it's a probabilistic concept. But for jurors the verdict is binary, so I'm guessing that they think of the case in simpler, "yes or no" terms.
The notion of reasonable doubt is a legal fiction that renders legitimate a fundamentally unjust criminal legal system that consigns people to civil, social, and actual death. It allows people to believe they are engaged in a enterprise undergirded by some form of an objective, rigorous standard rather than an utterly subjective, fatally flawed process. The notion of what is reasonable, despite what established legal doctrine has propagated, is little more than an expression of the perspective of dominant groups, universalized.
Reasonable doubt is a probabilistic concept, but not one that is susceptible of more precise statement or ascertainable through statistical analysis. As Wigmore pointed out, we lack ways of measuring, and coherently communicating standards describing, the intensity of human belief. Reasonable doubt seems to express both a mood and a value -- the mood is one of near-, but not total, certainty, and the value is a preference for allocating the risk of error in a manner that favors the accused. Aside from those expressions, I see reasonable doubt as an unusually subjective probabilistic concept: a concept that invites one to weigh evidence and interpret the concept consistently with his own conscience.
Reasonable doubt is not a probabilistic concept and, I believe, saying to a jury that it is would be a reversible error. Courts have refused to define a reasonable doubt as much more than the combination of the two words: a doubt that a reasonable person would have regarding the fact at issue. This doubt could be improbable, as long as it is reasonable. Being struck by lightning is improbable, but a reasonable person knows that lighting strikes do occur. If innocence could be established by a lightning strike, and the government fails to close off that possibility, then the "reasonable doubt" requirement would likely require a jury to find not guilty. Regardless of how improbable a lighting strike could be.
Reasonable doubt could be a probabilistic concept (although judges cannot give the jury a percentage certainty for jurors to inform their judgment). The "ideal" is that for a jury to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt in a defendant's guilt, there must be a set of facts for which the only reasonable interpretation is guilt. However, I highly doubt that the latter definition actually comes to fruition in the average criminal trial.
Reasonable doubt is (probably) a subjective, probabilistic concept. What’s reasonable and what’s not often involves probability. When the likelihood of an explanation of an event passes some threshold, then the explanation becomes reasonable. But the threshold for what counts as “objectively reasonable” varies from person to reason. And personal biases often shape the way each of us measures likelihood — even if we attempt to place ourselves under some sort of veil of ignorance.
I agree that reasonable doubt is a fictional legal standard, which is probabilistic, and which as someone above noted is well-described as a "mood". But all attempts to ascertain truth strike me as less-than absolute; it is always an attempt to get as close as possible to the Truth, but I am not sure you can ever obtain it perfectly.
Reasonable doubt (“RD”) isn’t just probabilistic. In his concurrence, Justice Harlan touches on the idea that we as a society would rather see a guilty person go free than an innocent person convicted. RD gives individual jurors more of a chance to protect that societal stance.
RD isn’t just about setting a higher bar for how sure jurors must be of the defendant’s guilty to convict. If it were, surely a jurist along the way could have just assigned a numerical value to what level of sureness is required to convict; say, 90 percent.
By not numericizing RD, jurors retain more permission to acquit based on concerns with the prosecution’s case they may not be able to articulate. If 10 percent or some other percentage of uncertainty were required, that would beg of an answer to the source of a juror’s doubt in a way the more qualitative “reasonable doubt” does not. Other jurors more willing to prose-cute might ask a would-be holdout “how did you decide you have more than 10 percent doubt? How much doubt, exactly, do you have?” A juror might abandon his position under this inquiry, not because their doubt isn’t sin-cerely held, but because they find themselves unable to articulate it in a way that can withstand attempts to lower their estimate of a fair percentage point allotment.
In sum, “reasonable doubt” gives legitimacy to jurors’ intuitions in a way that a purely probabilistic standard probably would not.
Reasonable doubt in theory and in practice seem to be two distinct concepts. In theory, I think implementing the standard of reasonable doubt does take into account the social values that we view as important, as Harlan writes in his concurrence. But conviction rates in practice don't seem to line up with these apparent values. I doubt that most jurors weigh the broader contexts of why we have certain standards and strictly adhere to their supposed definitions. Instead, it is more likely that most jurors form a "gut" feeling about a case and go with it, rather than really weighing the potential alternative conclusions. Thus, I don't think that reasonable doubt can be fairly classified as a probabilistic concept in practice, as it tends to be more of an "all or nothing" approach.
I am not, to begin with, entirely sure that there is a shared and settled understanding of the term "probabilistic concept"; it might admit of different views. To the extent that it may be understood to mean a concept that is used in criminal adjudication as a benchmark against which we satisfy ourselves about the truth of a certain state of affairs with "mathematical" certainty or precision (in the same way we might speak of "calculating" probabilities in mathematics), I suggest that this is unhelpful. In this regard, I agree entirely with the remarks made moments ago (by Zatanna Brain) that a numerical value cannot be assigned to reflect the degree of certitude we might hold in respect of a given state of affairs to which we did not personally bear witness. On the other hand, if by describing "reasonable doubt" as a "probabilistic concept", all we are doing is acknowledging that the truth of a certain state of affairs can only ever be approached by us in degrees of certainty, then I see no difficulty with the description.
Reasonable doubt, in my opinion, is a highly probabilistic concept. As Justice Harlan writes in his concurrence, as the stakes are higher in a criminal than a civil trial, so should the standard of proof. However, I’m highly skeptical that in practice jurors understand the difference. In all likelihood, if they believe the defendant is more-likely-than-not guilty - based on the totality of state’s the case - (rather than looking and evaluating each element separately), they’ll convict.
Reasonable doubt is, in a sense, a probabilistic concept. A verdict rendered "beyond a reasonable doubt" will depend on who is rendering the verdict as well as who is on trial. In a society built on oppression, racism, sexism, classism, etc., all of that will have to factor in to jury deliberations and the ultimate verdict. In that sense, what we usually think of when we think about what "beyond a reasonable doubt" means is really a myth. The "doubt" a juror has/does not have most certainly has been processed through the many biases and structural influences with which that juror has come into the jury room. Thus, the falsehood that this standard somehow ensures justice is not real.
Reasonable doubt seems to be more of a moral concept, than a probabilistic concept to me. There seems to be an underlying moral justification allowing juries to make these types of life-changing (often life-destroying decisions) about other peoples' lives. In my opinion, no human being can ever know beyond a reasonable doubt how/why something occurred (unless they themselves witness "everything"). Therefore, the reasonable doubt concept seems, to me, to be something that was "made up" (with good intentions) to support the structure of the current legal system.
reasonable doubt seems in theory to be probabilistic concept, but as some of my classmates have already acknowledged, both the concept of reasonable doubt and the amount/satisfaction of the evidence required for a person to feel that they have reached that level of certainly to determine proof exists beyond this level of doubt is incredibly subjective. It is difficult to imagine that many people (myself included) could convincingly appreciate in the concrete how making a determination under this standard differs from another standard, such as preponderance of the evidence (which I believe people default to in most life situations, and there must be more work done in jury education to ensure that the difference is adequately communicated)
Harlan, channeling Wigmore, concedes that in a prior event of disputed fact, no human can never absolutely know what really happened (be unassailably accurate, as he says). I'd extend this thought: even where a human was present and witnessed an event, different subjective interpretations may exist such that a highly self-aware individual would admit that she does not really, absolutely know what happened. And yet, despite this reality of imperfect knowledge of past events, juries are called upon to determine the facts of the case. This is a super-human request. Beyond a reasonable doubt is not probability 0.7, 0.8, or 0.9. It is 1.0. A jury that finds evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is saying that a crime did in fact happen. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" does not mean that a crime likely occurred, very likely occurred, or even almost certainly occurred -- but that it did occur. That determination is made with the best knowledge and reasoning that humans can possess. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is a nod to humanity's lack of omniscience, not an invitation to convict when mostly sure but not positive.
I don't think reasonable doubt is based in probability. Instead, I think Justice Harlan is right to treat it as an epistemic idea - relating to our beliefs and therefore limited by our capacity to know, rather than inhering in some external reality. While we often think probabilistically, there is good evidence from the cognitive sciences that there are limits on our ability to conceive of differences in probability at a certain fine grain. (For an example of what this means, there is a famous philosophical thought experiment that asks you to picture in your mind's eye a thousand-sided object. Now, try to picture a ten-thousand-sided object. While you might be able to understand abstractly the difference between the shapes, you're unlikely able to actually imagine them. The same is arguably true about probability beyond a certain level of specificity - we might abstractly understand the difference, but trying to pinpoint the difference in the world between a 1.5% chance and a 1.6% chance of something occurring is difficult.) I'd argue that the idea of "reasonable doubt" is instead a fundamentally an epistemic concept, about how the human mind deals with uncertainty. The fact that it is not a clear line in the sand is therefore appropriate, since the human mind doesn't deal in clear lines when it comes to uncertainty. Here's the problem: we are notoriously poor at coping with underdeterminative evidence. Arguably, "beyond a reasonable doubt" is just a way of lending a sense of authority and legitimacy to the collection of cognitive fallacies that plague us from day to day.
In its ideal form reasonable doubt is a safeguard to ensure that those found guilty must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and not just by a preponderance of the evidence. It aims towards a degree of certainty beyond the notion of someone being "probably" guilty. in this sense Harlan portrays reasonable doubt as something that transcends probabilistic standards and requires a higher degree of certainty from the jurors. He portrays it as a safety valve to prevent amoral outcomes -- that an innocent person goes punished. However in reality this happens far more than we would like, indicating that perhaps reasonable doubt is a probabilistic concept in that it depends on chance -- the composition of the jury, the presentation of the evidence, the skill of defendants counsel.
Of course "reasonable doubt" is a probabilistic concept. It lends itself to the fundamentally subjective interpretations of the fact-finder. The fact-finder (often the jury) becomes the arbiter of what is "reasonable". Inevitably, the jury's long train of prejudices and opinions--of the evidence itself, of the defendant, of the counsel involved, of the community, of the criminal legal process--inflect its judgment of whether such a "reasonable doubt" exists in a case. Perhaps one could say that is what we want. After all, if trial by jury is meant to symbolize the community's moral condemnation of a law-breaker, perhaps it is just that the Community's various idiosyncrasies play a role in deciding if a reasonable doubt exists in a case. However, wouldn't that open the door to invidious forms of discrimination? Don't we want the fact-finder to jst find the Facts? I submit that we do just want the Facts, and that the jury (or the judge) is best (albeit imperfect) evaluator of the Facts. However, I also think that the "reasonable doubt" standard in Winship is probably the best society can do in criminal cases. The criminal legal process is highly-flawed; that's no secret. But using a relatively restrictive qualitative standard that asks the fact-finder to be certain of a defendant's guilt is likely the best the system can do.
Reasonable doubt seems to be a probabilistic concept, the inputs for which are difficult to measure accurately. It is the legal equivalent of a p-value used in basic statistical measurement. There is some variation in what p-value is required to show statistical significance based on factors like the convention in the field and the accuracy of the underlying measurements, but p=0.05 is the generally accepted standard. Reasonable doubt functions the same way, with a probabilistic baseline for what should typically meet this standard and some variation based on the specific case, as explained by jury instructions, evidence available, expected societal impact, and the like. However, unlike most statistical measures, the underlying inputs for reasonable doubt are extremely difficult to accurately measure and therefore quantify, making a numerical expression of reasonable doubt impractical to express.
Reasonable doubt seems to be a probabilistic concept insofar that jurors can compare it to other standards of proof (e.g. it requires more certainty than PPoE's 51% and "clear and convincing"). Reasonable doubt does seem to be a "mood," as described above, or an instinct. A reasonable doubt to me is a doubt that would give me pause before making the most serious or important decisions in life. Surely, in the context of a criminal trial, the jury is making the most serious and important decision in the defendant's life. This is where I think the reasonable doubt standard goes awry. The inability to fully express how important the jury's decision is to the defendant's future guts the standard of its theoretical force (to serve as a bulwark for the presumption of innocence). Knowing the real stakes of what a guilty verdict unleashes (civil death in the form of perpetual discrimination, extensive surveillance and monitoring, or possibly death) beyond an initial imagined term of imprisonment would provide context for the jury's conception of "beyond a reasonable doubt". Obviously, this full expression of the consequences of convictions is protested by the state as unduly prejudicial/inflammatory; however, I think this is a crucial piece to the puzzle of giving BYARD the real force of "utmost certainty," rather than just, "it's higher than PPoE."