ERIC Number: ED165202
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1978-Nov
Reference Count: 0
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt as Proof to a Reasonable Degree of Certainty: An Experimental Test of an Hypothesis Advanced by State Trial Judges.
Seibert, David R.
A study was conducted to discover whether jurors perceived a difference between instructions to assign guilt on a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard as compared with a "to a reasonable degree of certainty" standard. The main study included 88 communication students who read a case summary and one of four versions of jury instructions. They were then divided into six-person juries composed of people who had received identical versions of the jury instructions to deliberate the case. One group of jurors received burden-of-proof instructions emphasizing reasonable doubt, a second set emphasized reasonable certainty, a third set combined the two, and a fourth set had no instructions. After a verdict was reached or the jury was declared "hung," subjects were asked what their final vote in the deliberation had been and how strongly they believed in the defendant's guilt. It was found that the "reasonable doubt" instruction and the composite instruction produced almost identical results while the "reasonable certainty" instruction produced both belief-in-guilt ratings and a conviction rate lower than either of the first two. The no-instruction condition produced the highest mean rating of belief-in-guilt and the highest conviction rate. (TJ)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (64th, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2-5, 1978) ; Reproduced from best copy available