Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

We all know the courtroom drama, where the suspense is tangible as we wait for the jury’s verdict. But should such things actually happen, asks Richard Dawkins in a New Statesman article?


You cannot have it both ways. Either the verdict is beyond reasonable doubt, in which case there should be no suspense while the jury is out. Or there is real, nail-biting suspense, in which case you cannot claim that the case has been proved “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Enjoyed this post? Why not sign up to receive Status-Q in your inbox?


I always assumed that the tension projected in dramas was supposed to be the tension felt by the accused. Surely if you are accused then there’s always the worry, however irrational, that you might be wrongly convicted until you hear the judgment.

Yes, I think that’s right, in a drama.

Some of his suggestions are interesting, I think: if you split the jury into two independent groups of six, and they arrived at different verdicts, presumably there would then be reasonable doubt?

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To create code blocks or other preformatted text, indent by four spaces:

    This will be displayed in a monospaced font. The first four 
    spaces will be stripped off, but all other whitespace
    will be preserved.
    Markdown is turned off in code blocks:
     [This is not a link](

To create not a block, but an inline code span, use backticks:

Here is some inline `code`.

For more help see


© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser