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Philosophy Speakers: Reasonable Doubt & Jury Unanimity

Date & Time:
March 2, 2018 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location:
SS 1253
Speaker:
Hon. Justice William Ehrcke, Supreme Court of British Columbia 

About the Talk

In Canada, any person charged with an offence punishable by five years or more imprisonment has the right to be tried by a jury and only convicted if the jury unanimously decides that guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  This talk explores the origins and the meaning of the reasonable doubt standard and the relationship between this standard of proof and the requirement for jury unanimity.  Does one have to be able to give a reason for having a “reasonable” doubt?  Is being satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt any different from simply being sure?  Does the requirement for jury unanimity effectively raise the standard of proof by requiring the Crown to persuade twelve people instead of one?  Can members of a jury disagree about the reasons for a conviction or acquittal and still be considered unanimous?  Which of these principles are entrenched in our law, and which could be changed?  Our law will be compared with that in other Western democracies with a view to understanding whether our articulation of the standard of proof and our requirement for jury unanimity are such fundamental principles of justice that changing them would not be an option.    

About the Speaker

Hon. Justice Ehrcke has been a judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court since 2003.  He obtained his LL.B. from the University of Victoria in 1978 and practiced corporate and commercial law at McCarthy Tétrault in Vancouver for two years before joining Crown Counsel.  There, he acted as a trial counsel, and later, appellate counsel in the British Columbia Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada. Before going into law, he obtained a Ph.D. at the University of Calgary and taught in the Philosophy Department at the University of Toronto (Erindale College) and the University of Victoria.  He has published occasional articles on various topics in criminal procedure and evidence.

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