Hastings Law Journal


Scott E. Sundby


Although the presumption of innocence is universally acknowledged as central to the Anglo-American accusatorial system, considerable controversy surrounds how far the presumption of innocence should be extended through the requirement that the state prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Determining the scope of the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt rule requires balancing the risk of acquitting the guilty against the danger of convicting innocent individuals. The balancing is made even more difficult when posed as a question of constitutional law because it raises concerns of federalism and separation of powers. This Article reviews the various judicial and scholarly approaches to striking the proper balance and analyzes their strengths and weaknesses. The Article concludes that only an expansive view of when the reasonable doubt rule applies adequately protects the presumption of innocence and that acceptable alternatives to limiting the reasonable doubt rule exist to minimize the risk of acquitting the guilty.

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