In the actual Frank Quattrone case, the conviction of the investment banker was overturned by an appeallate court, because the trial judge had wrongly instructed the jury to disregard "mens rea" (guilty knowledge) in ordering the destruction of documents.

Suppose, in I call a "reverse Quattrone" case, the jury found that the defendant had mens rea in ordering the destruction of documents in an "obstruction of justice". But the prosecution was unable to prove the relevance of the documents in question because they had been destroyed.

Could an American jury still find guilt based on its finding of mens rea? That is, the jury thinks, "we don't know what this guy is hiding, but he sure must be hiding something?

1 Answer 1


In a criminal case, a jury is required to find that all of the elements of the crime are present beyond a reasonable doubt. Mens rea is one element of most crimes, but is almost never the only one that the prosecution must prove.

A jury does not need to have direct proof of each of those elements. Some or all of them may be established with circumstantial evidence. But, it must find beyond a reasonable doubt that every element is true.

So, in a "reverse Quattrone" case, a jury that was faithfully following the jury instructions given to it would have to acquit the defendant on that charge.

  • OK, so the jury would need mens rea plus "something else" to convict? Perhaps even as little as "circumstantial" evidence regarding the contents of the destroyed documents?
    – Libra
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 0:47
  • @TomAu The legal stand is that there must be enough evidence in the record at trial for that evidence and all reasonable inferences from that evidence to allow a reasonable juror to find beyond a reasonable doubt that every element of the crime had been committed. The fact that there is circumstantial evidence regarding the contents of the destroyed documents does not mean that it is "little" evidence. Circumstantial evidence is often voluminous and convincing. But, the analysis is highly fact specific and involves judgment applying a general standard rather than a simple black and white rule.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 0:57

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