Reasonable Doubt Jury Instruction in California

In People v. Garcia (1975) 54 Cal.App.3d 61, the trial court amplified the reasonable doubt instruction with the following language: " 'In other words, reasonable doubt means just what the term implies, doubt based upon reason, doubt that presents itself in the minds of reasonable people who are weighing the evidence in the scales, one side against the other, in a logical manner in an effort to determine wherein lies the truth.' " (Garcia, supra, 54 Cal.App.3d at p. 68.) The appellate court held that this explanation was comparable to the description of the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof, which demanded only that the evidence, when weighed against the opposing evidence, have " 'more convincing force.' " (Id. at p. 69.) The weighing process, Garcia explained, "is wholly foreign to the concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt." (Ibid.) This distinction between the two standards had long been recognized. "In civil cases a party may have established an essential fact by a preponderance of the evidence, although, in the light of all the evidence pro and con, the jury may not be satisfied to a moral certainty of the existence of the fact, and the whole evidence may not be such as to produce conviction in their minds." (People v. Miller (1916) 171 Cal. 649, 654.) The duty of establishing a fact beyond reasonable doubt imposes a duty far greater than is required to establish the same fact by a preponderance of the evidence. (Garcia, supra, 54 Cal.App.3d at p. 69.) Under the reasonable doubt standard of proof, the jury is tasked with more than merely balancing the evidence. " ' "To justify a criminal conviction, the trier of fact must be reasonably persuaded to a near certainty." ' " (People v. Redmond (1969) 71 Cal.2d 745, 756; People v. Hall (1964) 62 Cal.2d 104, 112.)