Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Challenge to Pattern Reasonable Doubt Instruction Rejected

U.S. v. Petty, 2017 WL 2219098 (5/22/17) (CO) - the court rejects Mr. Petty's constitutional challenge to the Tenth Circuit's Pattern Jury instruction on reasonable doubt. He maintained that instructing the jury to convict if "firmly convinced" of guilt connotes a lesser standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt; that the instruction failed to communicate the government's heavy burden; and that it failed to inform the jury that reasonable doubt could arise from lack of evidence as well as from presented evidence. The Tenth says there was no "reasonable likelihood" that the jury understood from the instructions that the defendant could be convicted on proof insufficient to meet the reasonable doubt standard. There was no requirement that the jury be told specifically that the government has a heavy burden in a criminal case and that reasonable doubt may arise from the government's failure to present adequate evidence. Mr. Petty was not denied due process or deprived of a fair trial.