What is reasonable doubt?
Reasonable doubt is a standard of proof that must be surpassed to convict the accused in
a criminal proceeding. It is required under the Due Process Clause of
the Fifth Amendment in the United States Constitution to protect individuals
from unjustified prosecutions and convictions. This topic of interest
arrives following the aftermath of the
highly publicized murder trial of Floridian resident and accused child-killer, Casey Anthony.
In a criminal proceeding, it is the duty of the prosecutor to prove the
defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with sufficient evidence
and support. After a trial, it is then the responsibility of the jury
to weigh the facts that were presented; compare it to each and every element
of the law; and decide a verdict for the accused.
A jury decides the outcome of a case by carefully examining and evaluating
the evidence to the smallest degree. If the evidence does not support
the prosecutor's argument and the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt, the jury must pronounce the defendant not guilty. If questionable
and irrelevant evidence is included in the criminal proceeding, it is
the duty of the prosecutor or defendant's counsel to object and insist
that the evidence be excluded by the presiding Judge.
Death of Caylee Anthony – Murder Trial of Casey Anthony
In July 2008, Caylee Anthony was reported missing and it was determined
that her mother failed to notify her family or any other authority figure
for 31 days. Casey Anthony was the last person to see her daughter alive,
and her strange behavior—including obvious child neglect, suspicious
search results on her personal computer, and accusatory remarks from her
parents to authority officials—were not helping exonerate her of
any guilt. Her abhorrent behavior, highlighted by the pictures of her
partying during those 31 days her daughter was missing or dead, was certainly
more than enough to convict her of murdering her daughter in the court
of public opinion.
When Caylee's remains were discovered nearly four months after she
was reported missing, her death was ruled a homicide and Casey Anthony
was arrested and charged with
aggravated child abuse,
aggravated manslaughter of a child, and four counts of
giving false information to a law enforcement officer in reference to a
The Trial & Verdict
In June 2011, three years after the death of Caylee Anthony, the criminal
trial of Casey Anthony began. Casey Anthony was facing life imprisonment
and the death penalty.
But on July 5th, 2011 the jury issued a not guilty verdict on first-degree murder, aggravated
child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child. The public's reaction
to this grave and serious conviction was outrage and disbelief. This case
had garnered massive amounts of media attention and an unprecedented following,
and the nation was ready for justice to be served in the name of Caylee
Anthony. But the jury still could not connect the dots, and the evidence
did not support an ultimate guilty conviction.
The cause of death of Caylee Anthony was never established. We are still
unaware as to who was present at the time of her death. While the prosecutors
reached into every corner to explain the possible motives of Casey Anthony
for killing her 2-year-old, in the end, these motives could never offer
or replace the need for concrete evidence of a premeditated murder or
a felony murder.
The state that Caylee's decomposed body was found in offered very little
physical evidence to support any definitive cause of death. To add, prosecutors
could not provide a murder weapon and held no DNA evidence to support
the case they were making against Casey. The defense used this lack of
evidence to ask the jury to acquit Casey and contended that 2-year-old
Caylee drowned in the family's pool and this fatal accident "snowballed
out of control."
Lack of Reasonable Doubt
We will likely never know if the defense's theory is based on any truth,
but the defense team definitely argued that the State failed to reach
its burden and the reasonable doubt was there for the jury to acquit.
The prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove Casey's
guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; thus, the jury was forced to pronounce
Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering her daughter Caylee.
Even though the jury passed this verdict, it does not necessarily mean
they believed this was just—it is clear that this decision was made
simply based on evidence and the discovery in the case. The jury's
decision in this case does not signify that the jury believed Casey was
innocent of the charges and accusations against her. In reality—and
to the public's dismay—the prosecutors simply did not have enough
evidence to convict Casey on the charges against her.