THE BLOG
07/07/2011 08:24 pm ET | Updated Sep 06, 2011

Doubt Desensitized: Reasonable Doubt Takes on New Meaning in the Postmodern Era

In an age of uncertainty, what constitutes proof beyond a reasonable doubt may be shifting in the minds of jurors. The Casey Anthony verdict seems emblematic of this shift and begs the question: Would a guilty verdict for Casey Anthony have been more likely with a jury from the 1950s?

The modern era was a time of black and white morality, absolute truths, and universal principles. Today, however, we walk around with a trail of endless possibilities, clouds of uncertainty, and yes, a perpetual sense of doubt surrounding every choice we make and everything we do. Our psychology has shifted and so too it seems has our legal system.

If a prosecutor's case has left the jury with no doubt or if their only doubts are unreasonable, then she has proven the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the line for what constitutes unreasonable may have moved since we are so used to multiple interpretations, open-mindedness, and possibilities. It's like we're doubt desensitized. How often do we feel certain about anything these days, let alone being certain enough to give someone the death penalty?

The question then becomes, in an era of more questions than answers, how do prosecutors shift their tactics to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? It all seems so uncertain!