United States Court of Appeals
Criminal Procedure — burden of proof
It did not violate the defendant’s right to be convicted of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, where both his attorney and the prosecutor said that trials are about finding the truth.
“We do not find any error in the attorneys’ closing statements, much less plain error. There was nothing wrong with referring to trials as ‘searches for truth’: As we commented at oral argument, trials are searches for the truth; the burden of proof is just a device to allocate the risk of error between the parties. Indeed, both the Supreme Court and this court have repeatedly noted that criminal jury trials serve an important ‘truth-seeking’ function. E.g., United States v. Mezzanatto, 513 U.S. 196, 204-05 (1995); Jones v. Basinger, 635 F.3d 1030, 1040-41 (7th Cir. 2011). The attorneys here did no more than to repeat that uncontroversial proposition. Nor did the attorneys’ remarks restate the government’s burden of proof. To the contrary, both attorneys emphasized that the prosecution was required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, the government argued in rebuttal that it had ‘proven . . . beyond a reasonable doubt what the truth is.’ In total, counsel for both sides referred to the reasonable doubt standard no less than eleven times during their opening and closing statements.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Adelman, J., Wood, J.