Watering Down the Burden of Proof

   Diane Steinman, the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said: 

  "We're really aghast that a  person who is not fit for the US or Canada can come back here with impunity."  

 "The fault is with our laws: first with the war crimes  legislation that requires guilt beyond reasonable doubt ..."  

   There is an old saying to the effect that "bad cases make for bad law." I certainly have no desire to coddle mass murders and definitely have no sympathy at all for those who have participated in acts of genocide. The full measure of the law must be brought to bear against such people.
Nevertheless, there are other factors that must be taken into consideration. If the news story quoted Ms. Steinman correctly in the snippet above, then apparently she believes that there are some crimes so heinous that merely being accused of them is enough to warrant being punished for them. I fail to see how a standard which requires "guilt beyond reasonable doubt" unjustly protects criminals. If anything this waters down the standard of "guilt beyond any shadow of a doubt" which is the bedrock of American jurisprudence. The irony of this situation is especially intense given that both American and Australian laws contain provisions like this because at their core they were originally based on the Law which was given by God in the Old Testament of the Bible. The following passages are illustrative (translation is New King James Version):

Deuteronomy 17  

"(6) Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 
(7) The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hands of all the people. So shall you put away the evil from you." 

Deuteronomy 19  

"(15) One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. 
(16) If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, 
(17) then both men in controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and judges who serve in those days. 
(18) And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, 
(19) then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you." 

   Looking carefully at these requirements of the proof needed before someone could be convicted of a capital crime in Old Testament Law, it is obvious that there must have been a large percentage of the capital crimes that were actually committed that no prosecution could be brought for by the Israelites. Clearly, if the wrongdoer were careful enough and ensured that there were no witnesses, then he could never be convicted under these standards of proof. This contrasts markedly with the situation we have today where a large number of people have been convicted of crimes, even capital crimes, based largely on circumstantial evidence and not the sworn word of two or more eyewitnesses.
     For example, if this were the burden and standard of proof required in our court system today, Timothy McVeigh would be a free man. The prosecution never called any witness who could reliably place McVeigh in Oklahoma City that day, let alone at the crime scene. Also observe that the punishment for perjury under Old Testament Law is no joke. Perjury of testimony that would lead to the conviction of an innocent man for a capital crime was a capital offense. I wonder how many people would be willing to cut deals with prosecutors for their testimony against others if these standards of dealing with perjury were in force and used when applicable?
   Thus we see that a primary focus of Old Testament Law was to obtain justice, not to obtain convictions. Given that there would be many crimes that could not be prosecuted by the Israelites under the standards of proof required in Old Testament Law, then it must follow that there would be crimes today that could not be prosecuted under the standards of proof required by legal systems that were originally based on Old Testament Law. Does this mean that those who are guilty of those offenses will forever go free? No. It is important to realize that for those who are truly guilty of heinous offenses, the Lord Himself is their ultimate Judge. And He will administer just punishment in His time.
    I believe that reducing the burden of proof required to obtain convictions for crimes, even truly heinous crimes, flies in the face of the way that the Lord wants men to attempt to administer justice. Thus, Australia's standard of "guilt beyond reasonable doubt" for the conviction of people for war crimes is not the problem. The problem IMHO is people who want to see somebody punished for something so badly that they will weaken the standards of proof required to the point that anybody could be punished for it. This is effectively a moral perversion.
   The bottom line is quite simply that two wrongs do not make a right. There have been in the past, are now, and will be in the future people who commit heinous and despicable acts. If we are to have a system of laws which is just, which protects the unalienable rights of all people, and which is based on the Law that was handed down by God in the Old testament, then it will unfortunately follow that there will be some heinous criminals that we mortals will not catch. To attempt to deal with this problem by weakening the standards of proof required to convict people of crimes will not solve it. Regardless of how flimsy the standards of proof that are required in order to convict somebody, there will necessarily be some criminals who are not caught and punished. What will happen, however, is that as the standards of proof are weakened, more innocent people will be convicted for crimes which they did not commit. As should be obvious to people who have been following cases in our legal system today, prosecutors are not interested in obtaining justice. They are interested in obtaining convictions. And if they can make a stronger case against an innocent man who has no alibi than they can against a guilty man who does, it will be the innocent man who is put on trial and possibly punished for the offense. Given that we live in an era and a background where we see prosecutorial powers being selectively abused against people who hold unpopular beliefs, where we see agents of government perjuring themselves on the witness stand in court, and where we see no effective redress of these problems then it should be obvious that one of the last things we would want to do is to weaken the standards of proof required to convict people.
- Mike/North Central Florida Regional Militia
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These  are the personal views of Mike Johnson. He is the elected spokesman of the North Central Florida Regional Militia. They are neither endorsed nor supported by Citizens For Better Government. They are presented for informational purposes only. 
Last Revision: August 25, 1997