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A Philadelphia Injury Lawyer Discusses Burden of Proof

Why George Zimmerman May Walk

Forget for a minute about how stupid/evil George Zimmerman is/was.  This blog will explore the likelihood of a conviction, which I suggest is slight.  While other commentators may focus on flaws in the forensics or other factors, I want to explore the prosecution’s heavy burden of proof.

The prosecution must prove to this jury of six women that Zimmerman is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  That’s not going to be easy, especially since the only eye witness is Zimmerman himself.  The decision on whether Zimmerman will testify will probably not be made until the prosecution has rested.  If the prosecution case has not gone well, I doubt he will testify.  Why risk the scathing cross examination by the prosecutor?  But if the case is strong and a conviction seems likely, Zimmerman will testify.  And then his lawyer will argue that the State has not proven his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

In civil cases, the burden of proof is much different.  Insurance company lawyers love to talk to juries about how the plaintiff has the burden of proof. This is true, but generally rather meaningless. The burden of proof in civil cases requires the injured plaintiff to prove the case by a “preponderance of the evidence”. To win in a personal injury case, the evidence needs merely to outweigh, by any amount, the defendant’s evidence. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a much more onerous burden.

The plaintiff’s lawyer should remind the jury, during both the opening and closing statements, of the easy burden that must be sustained. He or she should also ask the jurors during voir dire if anyone has a problem with the concept that the plaintiff needs to prove the case by a mere preponderance to prevail. It is a very important point that needs to be hammered home so that the jury decides the case in accordance with the law.

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