Beck v. Alabama

In Beck v. Alabama, 447 U.S. 625 (1980), the United States Supreme Court commented upon the basis of the duty to charge lesser included offenses: At common law, the jury was permitted to find the defendant guilty of any lesser offense necessarily included in the offense charged. This rule originally developed as an aid to the prosecution in cases in which the proof failed to establish some element of the crime charged. But it has long been recognized that it can also be beneficial to the defendant because it affords the jury a less drastic alternative than the choice between conviction of the offense charged and acquittal. Providing the jury with the "third option" of convicting on a lesser included offense ensures that the jury will accord the defendant the full benefit of the reasonable-doubt standard. Id. at 633-34.