AbstractThe standard of proof in criminal trials in many liberal democracies is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the BARD standard. It is customary to describe it, when putting a number on it, as requiring that the fact finder be at least 90% certain, after considering the evidence, that the defendant is guilty. Strikingly, no good reason has yet been offered in defense of using that standard. A number of non-consequentialist justifications that aim to support an even higher standard have been offered; all are morally unsound. Meanwhile, consequentialist arguments plausibly support a substantially lower standard — in some cases so low as to undermine the idea that punishment is what is at stake. In this paper, I offer a new retributive justification that supports excluding the instrumental benefits of punishment from the balance that sets the standard. The resulting balance supports a standard arguably in the ballpark of the customary understanding of BARD: a standard requiring that the fact finder have a high, though not maximally high, degree of confidence that the defendant is guilty.
SubjectsStandard of proof, Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, Retributivism, Consequentialism (Ethics), Deontology, Duty
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