Almost everyone I know expressed shock and dismay when they heard the result of the Casey Anthony trial. The entire tragic history of Casey Anthony’s death was almost too horrible for many to imagine. Many of us were once against reminded that in a criminal trial, the prosecution has an imposing burden of proof that it must meet. When the entire Indiana State government or United States government is attempting to put you in prison, our Founding Fathers decided that they can only do so when the case against you is complete.
We all have heard that standard on television: beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that all the defense needs to do is convince a juror that some other explanation is plausible. In other words, for the guilty verdict to come in, the evidence would have to establish a particular point to a moral certainty, and that it is beyond dispute that any reasonable alternative is possible. The prosecution in this case had an uphill battle, with many, many evidence problems. In fact, they were not even able to conclusively establish the cause of death.
I am probably not alone in thinking in my heart of hearts that this person “looked guilty.” But that is not what our law, our Constitution requires.
Because no one is going to jail, there is a completely different standard in personal injury cases. The standard is called “preponderance of the evidence” which only requires a Plaintiff make their case just a little more than his opponent. If the Plaintiff meets this standard, and tips the balance just a little over 50 percent, the jury must find for the Plaintiff, even if they have reasonable doubts. Preponderance of the evidence simply means something is more likely true than not.
Seems fairly simple, right? You won’t hear about this different standard on television. There will be no dramatic arguments from good looking Hollywood actors that explain why the civil standard is different. Whether in South Bend, Elkhart, LaPorte, Plymouth, Syracuse or Knox, it is a fact that the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard is so ingrained in our culture that most of us have no idea that there are separate standards of proof for differing actions. Therein lies the difficulties in civil trials: getting jurors to understand their job and the standards they are to apply to their decision making. Our job as civil litigators from the get-go is to explain to the jury that this is NOT a criminal trial and that they CANNOT hold us to the criminal standard. I’ve heard it explained in percentages – “if I present just 50.1% more evidence in my favor than the defense – I win. That’s the law.” I’ve heard it explained by a scale – “If the defense and I are essentially even and the scales are balanced, and I place just a feather on top of our side of the scale, that is enough to tip the scale in my client’s favor for a verdict.”
However it is accomplished, it is a NECESSITY that Indiana jurors understand (and are constantly reminded throughout the trial) of this standard. Otherwise, clients are left sitting next to me at counsel table with the same shock and disbelief as the faces of those who first heard the Casey Anthony verdict.
You need a law firm that understands the burden of proof and how to explain it to jurors. Insurance companies win when the wrong standard is applied. DON’T LET THEM WIN!!!!