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August 14, 2012

By: Joel Cohen

Some lawyers, now mostly unsuccessfully (but more successfully in the past), have argued the following to constitute an appropriate jury instruction: "Ladies & Gentlemen, You have heard character testimony introduced by the defendant. I charge you that having heard all of the evidence, if you have a reasonable doubt on the basis of the character testimony standing alone, meaning in and of itself, you must acquit the defendant." 

To be sure, the jury will be correctly told that a "reasonable doubt" is a "doubt based upon a (common sense) reason." That reason, the defendant's attorney will also argue, might be the improbability that the defendant could have committed the crime, given his incredible reputation for honesty and integrity.

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