What does it mean to prove something “beyond a reasonable doubt?” Judges and juries in a criminal case are supposed to hold prosecutors to a high standard. If, at the trial’s conclusion, jurors have a reasonable doubt that the defendant did what the prosecution claims he or she did, it is their duty to vote “not guilty.”
One way criminal defendants get their case dismissed or are found not guilty is when prosecutors fail to present sufficient evidence against them. That was what occurred at trial recently in West Virginia, where the defendants were found not guilty of armed robbery.
According to the Herald Mail, the defendants were indicted in October in connection with a robbery that took place in May 2014. The victims say that two men wearing masks or bandanas over their faces and sweatshirt hoods over their heads approached them with handguns and took a wallet and both of their cellphones.
At trial, it appears that the prosecution relied heavily on the victims’ alleged identification of the suspects, and statements that police took at the scene. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney agreed that police failed to conduct a thorough investigation. For instance, the defense attorney criticized officers for failing to take photos or make diagrams of the crime scene. The prosecutor called the verdict a “learning experience” for the police officers involved in the apparently cursory investigation.
This result shows that an indictment is not the same thing as a conviction. People in West Virginia who get charged with a crime should never give up hope that they can be found not guilty, or at least avoid a lengthy incarceration.