Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    Uncertainty of mind; the absence of a settled opinion or conviction; the attitude of mind towards the acceptance of or belief in a proposition, thcory or statement, in which the judgment is not at rest but inclines alternately to either side. Rowe v. Baber, 98 Ala. 422, 8 South. 865; Smith v. Railway Co.., 143 Mo. 33, 44 S. W. 718; West Jersey Traction Co., v. Camden Horse R. Co.., 52 N. J. Eq. 452, 29 Atl. 333. Reasonable doubt. This is a term often used, probably pretty well understood, but not easily defined. It does not mean a mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affaire, and depending on moral evidence, is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction to a moral certainty of the truth of the charge. Donnelly v. State, 26 N. J. Law, 601, 615. A reasonable doubt is deemed to exist, within the rule that the jury should not convict unless satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, when the evidence is not sufficient to satisfy the judgment of the truth of a proposition with such certainty that a prudent man would feel safe in acting upon it in his own important affairs. Arnold v. State, 23 Ind. 170. The burden of proof is upon the prosecutor. All the presumptions of law independent of evidence are in favor of innocence; and every person is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty. If upon such proof there is reasonable doubt remaining, the accused is entitled to the benefit of it by an acquittal; for it is not sufficient to establish a probability, though a strong one, arising from the doctrine of chances, that the fact charged is more likely to be true than the contrary, but the evidence must establish the truth of the fact to a reasonable and moral certainty,—a certainty that convinces and directs the understanding and satisfies the reason and jfudgment of those who are bound to act conscientiously upon it. This is proof beyond reasonable doubt; because if the law, which mostly depends upon considerations of a moral nature, should go further than this, and require absolute certainty, it would exclude circumstantial evidence altogether. Per Shaw, C. J., in Com. v. Webster, 5 Cush. (Mass.) 320, 52 Am. Dec. 711. And see further, Tompkins v. Butterfield (O. C.) 25 Fed. 558; State v. Zdanowicz, 69 N. J. Law, 619, 55 Atl. 748; U. S. v. Youtsey (C. Ct) 91 Fed. 868 ; State v. May, 172 Mo. 630, 72 S. W. 918; Com. v. Childs, 2 Pittsb. R. (Pa.) 400; State v. Hennessy, 55 Iowa, 300, 7 N. W. 641; Harris v. State, 155 Ind. 265, 58 N. E. 75; Knight v. State, 74 Miss. 140, 26 South. 860; Carleton v. State, 43 Neb. 373, 61 N. W. 699; State v. Reed, 62 Me. 129; State v. Ching Ling, 16 Or. 419, 18 Pac. 844; Stout v. State, 90 Ind. 1; Bradley v. State, 31 Ind. 505; Alien v. State, 111 Ala. 80, 20 South 494; State v. Rover, 11 Nev. 344; Jones v. State, 120 Ala. 303, 25 South. 204 ; Siberry v. State, 133 Ind. 677, 33 N. E. 681; Purkey v. State, 3 Heisk. (Tenn.) 28; U. S. v. Post (D. C.) 128 Fed. 957; In S. v. Breese (D. C.) 131 Fed. 917.