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The Probable and The Provable$
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L. Jonathan Cohen

Print publication date: 1977

Print ISBN-13: 9780198244127

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198244127.001.0001

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The Difficulty about Proof beyond Reasonable Doubt

The Difficulty about Proof beyond Reasonable Doubt

(p.82) 8 The Difficulty about Proof beyond Reasonable Doubt
The Probable and The Provable

L. Jonathan Cohen

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents an elaboration on the difficulty about proof beyond reasonable doubt. It is more inclined to hold that a particular conclusion falls short of certainty because there is a particular, specifiable reason for doubting it, than to hold that it is reasonable to doubt the conclusion because it falls short of certainty. Hence a scale of mathematical probability is used for assessing proof beyond reasonable doubt. What is needed instead is a list of all the points that have to be established in relation to each element in the crime. Not that a high statistical probability is necessarily useless; but it must enter into a proof as a fact from which to argue rather than as a measure of the extent to which a conclusion has been established, and its relevance must also be separately established.

Keywords:   proof, mathematical probability, certainty, reasonable doubt, crime, statistical probability

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