Moral Certainty

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In a criminal trial, proof to a moral certainty is another way of saying proof "beyond a reasonable doubt." (see also: reasonable doubt).  The equivalent of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that satisfies the judgment and conscience of the jury, as reasonable men, that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged.  The reasonable doubt/ moral certainty standard is described in the Supreme Court case Agnew v. U.S., 165 U.S. 36, 51 (1897) as follows:

"The jury must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt as regards the guilt of the accused before they can find a verdict of guilty.  By a “reasonable doubt” is not meant a possible doubt, but such a doubt, arising from the evidence, that leaves the minds of the jury in such a state that they cannot say, after having reviewed all the evidence, that they have an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the guilt of the accused. “

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]