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Encyclopedia > Not proven

Not proven is a verdict available to a court in Scotland. Under Scots law, a criminal trial may end in one of three verdicts: guilty, not guilty, and not proven. A not proven verdict is an acquittal used when the judge or jury (depending on the kind of trial) does not have enough evidence to convict but still thinks the defendant probably committed the crime. In law, a verdict indicates the judgment of a case before a court of law. ... A court is an official, public forum which a sovereign establishes by lawful authority to adjudicate disputes, and to dispense civil, labour, administrative and criminal justice under the law. ... Motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (English: No one provokes me with impunity) Scotlands location within Europe Scotlands location within the United Kingdom Languages English, Gaelic, Scots Capital Edinburgh Largest city Glasgow First Minister Jack McConnell Area - Total - % water Ranked 2nd UK 78,782 km² 1. ... Scots law (or Scottish law) is the law of Scotland. ... Guilt is primarily an emotion experienced by people who believe they have done something wrong. ... In criminal law, an acquittal is the legal result of a verdict of not guilty, or some similar end of the proceeding that terminates it with prejudice without a verdict of guilty being entered against the accused. ... A jury is a sworn body of persons convened to render a rational, impartial verdict and a finding of fact on a legal question officially submitted to them, or to set a penalty or judgment in a jury trial of a court of law. ...

The not proven verdict is often called the Scottish Verdict or the Scotch Verdict.



The not proven verdict was established in Scottish law by 1728, but scholars dispute its origins. On one account, advanced two hundred years ago by the historians Hume and Arnot, the third and distinctively Scottish verdict was rooted in religious oppression. The Crown persecuted the Covenanters, and popular support for the Covenanters made it impossible to convict them in a jury trial. To pare the power of the jury, the Scottish judges began restricting the jury's role--no longer would the jury announce whether the defendant was "guilty" or "not guilty"; instead it would decide whether specific factual allegations were "proven" or "not proven"; and the judge would then decide whether to convict. In a famous trial in 1728, the story goes, a defense lawyer persuaded the jury to reassert its ancient right of acquitting, of finding a defendant "not guilty." Jurors continued to use both sets of verdicts, but "proven" fell away because it was redundant to "guilty." Some historians, however, such as Ian Douglas Willock, have rejected the traditional account.

Modern use

In modern use, the not proven verdict suggests a strong possibility of guilt but not enough evidence to convict. A person receiving a not proven verdict is not fined or imprisoned, and is not subject to double jeopardy. The real effect of a not proven verdict is stigma for the acquitted person. The verdict can tarnish a person's reputation, as when socialite Madeleine Smith was charged with murder in nineteenth century Glasgow but acquitted with a not proven verdict. Double jeopardy (also called autrefois acquit meaning already acquitted) is a procedural defense (and, in many countries such as the United States, Canada and India, a constitutional right) that forbids a defendant from being tried a second time for a crime, after having already been tried for the same crime. ... Madeleine Smith was the defendant in sensational murder trial in Scotland in the summer of 1857. ...

Some modern commentators have suggested that if a reduction in the number of possible verdicts is desired, it is the 'not guilty' verdict (in the sense of 'innocent') which should be discarded. This is based on the logic that if sufficient evidence exists to convict then 'guilty' is the appropriate verdict. If however insufficient or no evidence exists then the charge against the defendant can not be proved. Therefore the result should be 'not proven'. These are the only two logical and legal conclusions which can be drawn. To declare someone 'innocent' is a moral judgment, not a legal one, and as such is entirely beyond the capacity of a court of law.

Use in other jurisdictions

The Scottish verdict has not been adopted outside of its home country. Its most famous use outside of Scottish law came when Senator Arlen Specter tried to vote not proven on an article of impeachment of Bill Clinton. A recent proposal to introduce the not proven verdict into the United States is: Seal of the Senate The United States Senate is one of the two chambers of the Congress of the United States, the other being the House of Representatives. ... Arlen Specter (born February 12, 1930) is a United States Senator from Pennsylvania. ... The impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1998, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist presiding. ...

Samuel Bray, Not Proven: Introducing a Third Verdict, 72 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1299 (2005).

Analogy to science

The "not proven" verdict has been used in popular writing (as by Carl Sagan) as a metaphor for the operation of the scientific method, in which conclusions are never certain, but the most that can be said about a theory is what the preponderence of evidence suggests. Dr. Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, astrobiologist, and highly successful science popularizer. ... Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for the investigation of phenomena and the acquisition of new knowledge of the natural world, as well as the correction and integration of previous knowledge, based on observable, empirical, measurable evidence, and subject to laws of reasoning. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Provenance - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (469 words)
In the archiving and the management of records proof of provenance is provided by the operation of control systems that document the history of records kept in an archive, including details of amendments made to them.
Scientific research is generally held to be of good provenance when it is documented in detail sufficient to allow reproducibility.
Provenance is a fundamental principle of archives, referring to the individual, group, or organization that created or received the items in a collection.
  More results at FactBites »



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