Watering Down the
Burden of Proof
| Diane Steinman,
the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said:
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):
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.
"(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."
"(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
(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."
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
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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Last Revision: August 25, 1997
|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.