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Hammer O'Justice
Hammer O'Justice, Criminal Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 4502
Experience:  Almost 12 years of legal experience, primarily in criminal law
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Define beyond a reasonable doubt and how can I create a prosecution

Customer Question

Define beyond a reasonable doubt and how can I create a prosecution opening statement for a juvenile offense?
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Allen M., Esq. replied 8 years ago.
You want to be careful with this. You can ruin a case by giving an inappropriate definition of the burden of proof. Often the judge reserves the right to give an in depth definition.

Don't give mathematical figures (like 98% or some thing). Don't give examples. Really just state what it actually means. The the burden is a high one, but one you welcome. It requires proof beyond a REASONABLE doubt, not beyond a shadow of a doubt or beyond all probability.

As for the remainder of the opening, begin first with the facts....not conclusions from those facts, but facts. What do you intend to present? What will your witnesses say? Structure how you reveal those facts based on the elements of each charge. So you begin outlining the charges and their elements. Then state that you will prove each element and point to the evidence that you will present that supports each element.

Don't argue. That's for the closing.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

i didn't really understand your answer

Expert:  Hammer O'Justice replied 8 years ago.
<p>Hello. </p><p> </p><p>First, the best place to find a definition for reasonable doubt are jury instructions. Illinois does not have a jury instruction on the definition of reasonable doubt, but other states do. That should help you understand reasonable doubt. For example, one such instruction states, "A 'reasonable doubt' is a doubt based upon reason and common sense after a careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence. It is the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act in the most important of his or her own affairs." Another states: "A reasonable doubt is a doubt founded upon reason. It is not a fanciful doubt, a whimsical doubt or a capricious doubt."</p><p> </p><p>With respect to an opening statement, it is a roadmap for the case. You basically want to outline your case in story form while letting the jury (or judge) know where you are going with the case. You want to set up the testimony and the evidence in the context of the story, e.g., after setting up the story, you will want to tell the jury what to expect from your witnesses. It is just an outline for your case. You don't make legal arguments at that time at all. You just set up a brief outline of what you intend to present as part of your case.</p>