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Update 1:

This question pertains specifically to law in the United States of America, more specifically criminal law. However, I reason it may be applicable to the law of other lands.

Update 2:

The relevant part of proceedings of which I am imagining the motion to acquit would be made would be after the jury has rendered its verdict of guilty or not guilty in relation to whether or not a defendant is guilty or not guilty (more specifically, in a post-trial motion to the trial court judge, relative to ohwilleke's comment, if I grasp things correctly).

Update 3

Many of the arguments failed to touch upon my initial question, which has been "Does due process require that the grounds for a conviction can be substantiated?"

It appears to me through analysis that the answer to my question is "Yes." This has further come to my attention through realizing from ohwilleke's comment that a motion to acquit may involve making such motion on the basis that there is insufficient evidence to convict a defendant, whereby the expression "insufficient evidence to convict a defendant" is synonymous with the expression "the grounds used to convict the defendant could not be known as sound." If there is insufficient evidence to convict a defendant, then such conviction would be a due process violation.

Relative to Rene Descartes' evil genius argument in his meditations the following is argued as a basis to declare that there is never sufficient evidence to support a conviction: No rational trier of fact can know without the possibility of error whether or not any information encountered by such rational trier of fact is representative of actual evidence of a defendant’s guilt in order for such rational trier of fact to take such information into consideration as representative of actual evidence in order for such rational trier of fact to determine whether or not such defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of having committed a crime based on any such information in order for such rational trier of fact to convict such defendant of having committed a crime based on any such information.

That leaves the question remaining, "How does a person know if she or she knows something," for which I presume the answer is that the person has knowingly satisfied the criteria for such: No rational trier of fact can knowingly satisfy the one or more necessary or sufficient criteria are required to be satisfied in order to know without the possibility of error whether or not any information encountered by such rational trier of fact is representative of actual evidence of a defendant’s guilt.

People have made answers that have not targeted my initial question. Furthermore, the closure of the thread was fallacious.

Regardless, this question has been answered.

--- Original post is as follows:

I have been working on drafting legal and legal-like motions, but I have been failing to figure out how to argue whether or not a certain motion should be granted. To keep in line with this post being educational, I will focus on the motion of "motion to acquit," as I am not currently seeking legal advice for it and it will provide and basis for discussion.

So, from what I have studied from philosophy, there is Descartes's evil genius / evil demon argument that posits that we cannot be sure of anything about our reality. Relative to law, that means that a person cannot be sure that the alleged or presumed evidence that is being used to sustain a conviction is representative of actual evidence. It could be that an evil genius has deceived persons as to what the actual facts of the case are, thus crippling persons from having awareness of what alleged or presumed evidence is representative of actual evidence.

For sake of argument, it is presumed that in order to ensure that one is not being deceived by as to what the actual evidence of a case is, then such persons needs to have authority in order to ensure such, whereby it is presumed such authority can only be obtained by the person partaking of absolute control of reality, which would allow the person to account for whether or not he or she is being deceived.

Thus, I am thinking that it may be allowed as the necessary criterion for a motion to acquit to be made that it is not possible for anyone to know whether or not the grounds for the conviction are sound or not sound, whereby it is presumed that due process requires such can be known in order to prevent a false or speculative conviction in order to prevent a miscarriage of justice.

The reason it is not possible for anyone to know whether or not the grounds for the conviction are sound is because no one has the authority in order to know such.

However, I think the soundness of such motion is dependent on whether or not due process allows for its grounds to be considered sound.

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  • 1
    under which standard are we talking here? Are we talking a case in civil or criminal court? Which legal system is checking here, such as (US/UK) Common Law or (German/French/...) Civil Law System or Sharia?
    – Trish
    Mar 27, 2023 at 12:20
  • 1
    I don't follow your reasoning; but it's been a while since I've read Descartes' Meditations. A motion to acquit is made when the defence considers the prosecution lacks admissible evidence regardless of whatever the exterior reality is or is not.
    – user35069
    Mar 27, 2023 at 13:21
  • FYI - ZeroGPT gives the original question a score of 51% AI. It highlights the last half (starting with "For sake of argument") which initially seemed the least human to me. Mar 27, 2023 at 19:31
  • I’m voting to close this question because it seems AI generated and is therefore against current site policy. Mar 27, 2023 at 19:36
  • ChatGPT thinks it was generated by ChatGPT-3 Mar 27, 2023 at 19:44

2 Answers 2

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In a criminal case, there are a couple of grounds for dismissal of a prosecution based upon insufficient evidence.

One is a failure to establish in a preliminary hearing in criminal cases where one is allowed, the probable cause that the defendant has committed the crime charged has been established. Probable cause is also required for a search warrant and to make an arrest with or without a warrant, and it is the standard applied by grand juries in deciding whether to indict (a grand jury in not constitutionally required at the state and local level in all states but is required at the federal level and in some, mostly Eastern U.S., states).

The other, which applies in motions to acquit for lack of sufficient evidence at the close of the prosecution's case, at the close of the case before it is sent to a jury, in a post-trial motion to the trial court judge, and on appeal, is that "no reasonable juror" could rule in favor of the prosecution with respect to a particular charge, given the admissible evidence in the record to support that charge and the applicable legal standard (i.e. proof of each of the elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, although sometimes a different standard applies to affirmative defenses). This review is conducted assuming that the jury resolved all disputed issues of fact and credibility determinations that a reasonable juror could, in favor of the prosecution. Most often, these kinds of post-conviction motions and appeals are based upon the absence of any admissible evidence supporting an element of a particular criminal charge in the trial court record (e.g., if an element of the charge required serious injury and no evidence of the nature of the injuries suffered by the victim was presented at trial).

Whether these standards are constitutionally required as a matter of due process is hard to evaluate without a counterexample. Usually the question of the source of the legal right doesn't come up because these minimum standards are in place as a matter of law anyway.

Generally speaking, the U.S. Constitution does not require extrinsic evidence that a criminal charge has a factual basis in the face of a plea bargain in a criminal case, although some U.S. legal systems (including the U.S. military justice system) does require some sort of extrinsic factual basis to be established, at least in criminal cases.

Of course, in criminal cases, there are a variety of grounds for dismissing claims other than a lack of a factual basis for the charge.

For example, a criminal charge can be dismissed because the alleged crime has been pardoned, because the statute of limitations has expired, because the defendant was not of the age of criminal responsibility, because the defendant had diplomatic immunity, because the statute establishing the crime was repealed before the crime was committed or didn't take effect until after the crime was committed, because the court in question doesn't have jurisdiction to handle that kind of case or a crime committed in the location alleged, because the defendant hasn't been brought into custody of the court or appeared before it, because the evidence needed to support the claim was obtained illegally, because speedy trial rights were violated, because the conduct described in the indictment isn't a crime, etc.

The philosophical analysis found in the question is not part of the analysis used by courts and lawyers in the U.S.

Footnote Re Collateral Attacks On Convictions

Sometimes after a jury entered a guilty verdict which has been affirmed in all available appeals from the conviction to higher courts (called direct appeals), someone can bring what is called a "collateral attack on a conviction."

Historically and still today in federal court practice in in some state courts, this is called a habeas corpus petition. In many states courts, a petition for habeas corpus has been replaced by a motion under a particular criminal court rule (mostly in the interest of replacing archaic latin language and procedural forms with plain English language with procedural language that makes more sense in light of how modern courts are organized, without any intended difference in substance).

The standard for overturning a conviction in a collateral attack on a conviction is much more involved and complicated, because it involves setting forth standards for second guessing a previous, presumptively reasonable determination made on the merits by a trial court and affirmed by appellate courts.

Frequently collateral attacks are based upon factors that were not available for the jury and appellate courts to consider in admitted evidence in the trial court record, such as newly discovered evidence or ineffective assistance of counsel that wasn't obvious from the trial court record.

A federal habeas corpus petition is even more "meta" due to standards established by federal statutes out of a concern that the federal courts were insufficiently deferential to decisions made by state courts. This requires a variety of showings including an exhaustion of state court remedies and a showing that the state court judges were not just wrong, but were unreasonable in how they interpreted and applied the applicable law on matters pertinent to federal constitutional rights (rather than just any legal issue that could be a ground for vacating the conviction under state law).

Second Footnote Re Historical Appellate Review Of Convictions

Sufficiency of the evidence is a matter that can be reviewed in both direct appeal of a conviction, and in a collateral attack on a conviction, so some extent under current law.

Historically, until roughly the 1890s, there was no right to a direct appeal of a criminal conviction in the United States, and the right to a direct appeal of a criminal conviction in the United States is not a constitutional right. This doesn't mean that there aren't constitutional rights regarding how criminal convictions are conducted if direct appeals of criminal convictions are allowed at all, however.

Also, in this era and context, habeas corpus review of convictions was largely limited to jurisdiction and the existence of either a conviction or acquittal for someone who was detained. Generally, if you were convicted by a court with jurisdiction over the case, that was the end of the inquiry in a common law habeas corpus petition, unless the term of your sentence had expired. Conversely, if you were detained despite being acquitted, that would be a way to win a habeas corpus petition.

There was some expansion of this common law foundation to protect constitutional rights in the 19th century U.S., but prior to the passage of the 14th Amendment, most federal constitutional rights did not apply to state court criminal cases, so the federal courts didn't have jurisdiction to protect most rights of criminal defendants.

In that era, the pardon power was used more freely to make up for the deficiencies of the post-conviction review process.

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Descartes was never a common law judge

Nor did he write any legislation.

Therefore, his ideas are irrelevant to the practice of law.

The judge has the authority to decide the law because they are the judge

Similarly the jury can decide guilt or innocence because they are the jury

Relative to law, that means that a person cannot be sure that the alleged or presumed evidence that is being used to sustain a conviction is representative of actual evidence. It could be that an evil genius has deceived persons as to what the actual facts of the case are, thus crippling persons from having awareness of what alleged or presumed evidence is representative of actual evidence.

Who cares?

Their authority does not come from any epistemological ability or disability to decide, it comes from the authority they are given by the state to make the decision.

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