Monday, March 19, 2007


The Libby jury is reported to have asked for a clarification as to the meaning of “reasonable doubt.” The government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Not beyond all doubt. Not beyond a shadow of a doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt. Here is the instruction to be given to the jury by the Judge in criminal cases in New Mexico.

14-5060. Presumption of innocence; reasonable doubt; burden of proof.(fn1)
1. Statute text
The law presumes the defendant to be innocent unless and until you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt.
The burden is always on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not required that the state prove guilt beyond all possible doubt. The test is one of reasonable doubt. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense - the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act in the graver and more important affairs of life.
1. This instruction must be given in all cases.
Committee commentary. - The language of this instruction was derived from Devitt & Blackmar, Federal Jury Practice and Instructions, Section 11.01 (1970), and State v. Ellison, 19 N.M. 428, 144 P. 10 (1914). See also State v. Rodriguez, 23 N.M. 156, 167 P. 426, 1918A L.R.A. 1016 (1917).
Because of the importance of the presumption of innocence and the need to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, this instruction is required in all cases. It repeats some of the explanation given the jury at the outset of the trial in UJI 14-101.
It is generally accepted that the reasonable doubt instruction will cover a multitude of problems. For example, an instruction on the danger of eyewitness testimony is not necessary where the jury is given this instruction and UJI 14-5020, Credibility of witnesses. See State v. Mazurek, 88 N.M. 56, 537 P.2d 51 (Ct. App. 1975).

Now have you got it?

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