Nebraska Criminal & Trial Lawyers
Reasonable Doubt and Criminal Certainty

Reasonable Doubt and Criminal Certainty

Being charged with a crime is a frightening experience. The prospect of being sent to prison and losing your liberty is shocking for most people. But many people believe the system is generally effective and accurate, and that if someone is convicted of a crime, they must have done it.

Except when they did not. In reality, the system, heavily geared towards plea bargains and far less to jury trials where reasonable doubt and evidence are weighed and judged, often makes mistakes.

Only, they are not so much "mistakes" as operational efficiencies. Jury trials are time consuming and expensive. There are only so many judges and prosecutors available. If every case went to trial, the time many people would spend awaiting their trial would exceed their potential sentence.

But of the system gets it wrong. Last year was a record year for exonerations. Part of this was due to 28 cases from one jurisdiction, where an investigation uncovered cases where the accused had been pressured into accepting pleas when no crime had occurred.

Part of this is due the overcharging and the general presence of overly long sentences. If you are risking a sentence that could place you behind bars for decades or potentially your likely life expectancy, you may find 10 to 22 years an acceptable compromise.

Most exonerations occur when DNA evidence clears an inmate, but that type of guaranteed evidence is often not available. Televisions programs like "Making a Murderer" point to the larger problem throughout the criminal justice system of convictions being obtained as a result of potential misfeasance or malfeasance by police and prosecutors, which undercuts confidence and respect for the system as a whole.

Source:, "Jailed but Innocent: Record Number of People Exonerated in 2015," ARI MELBER and MARTI HAUSE, February 3, 2016


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