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Firstly, I'm requesting that persons focus on the question in the title of this post. Please do focus on that. I think for a rational trier of fact to view the evidence in the light most favorable to prosecution means that judicial bias has occurred: The judge has picked a party of which it has become partial to, which shows that impartiality has been broken. Could someone please explain the rationale for why it would be in the light most favorable to prosecution?

If the answer to my question is along the lines of the "...reviewing court will presume the matter was resolved in favor of the prosecution...," then why would the reviewing court presume that the matter was resolved in favor of the prosecution?

Here are some citations with sources in relation to this issue:

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution means that when conflicting inferences may be drawn from the evidence, the reviewing court will presume the matter was resolved in favor of the prosecution. Assessing whether any rational trier of the facts could find the essential elements proven beyond a reasonable doubt is calculated to protect against those rare instances where a jury, though properly instructed, has done so.

  • State v. Clay, 187 Ohio App. 3d 633, 2010-Ohio-2720, ¶69-71, as per this website.

The federal due process standard for sufficiency is “whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319 (emphasis in original).

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You are quoting standards that are applicable during an appeal. So in this case, the defendant was brought to trial, was found guilty by a jury, and is now appealing that conviction. During that initial trial, the evidence was supposed to have been weighed neutrally.

In an appeal, the appellate court is not attempting to re-litigate the entirety of the case. That would be costly and slow in addition to burdensome on witnesses that might have to be called again to testify. Instead, it defers to the trial court for things like the determination of facts. The standards you quote show that an appellate court is only going to overturn a lower court's verdict as insufficient if the lower court's ruling is manifestly unjust.

The prosecution and the defense presented evidence on a particular element of the crime at trial. The jury determined that the prosecution met its burden, and proved the element beyond a reasonable doubt. The appeals court is not going to substitute its judgement for that of the jury particularly when the jury had the opportunity to assess the credibility of different witnesses that may not be possible from a simple text-based transcript. If the trial court convicted and the appeals court determines that the conviction was reasonable if the evidence was viewed from the standpoint most favorable to the prosecution, then the sufficiency standard would be met and the appeal would be denied. The appeals court would only overturn the verdict as insufficient if no reasonable juror could possibly have concluded that the state met its burden of proof given the evidence presented.

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This standard comes up when a defendant appeals a conviction, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction. To show that the evidence could not support a conviction, it must be shown that even in its most favorable light for the prosecution, no rational trier of fact (properly instructed) could have convicted. See Jackson v. Virginia, 433 U.S. 307.

Consider the alternative, where the evidence is construed in the light most favorable to the defendant. Then every defendant would win their appeal. The evidence against them would be viewed as wholly unbelievable, and then it would necessarily follow that no jury could have convicted.

To be clear: the trier of fact is not instructed to view the evidence in a light favorable to the prosecution. Rather, it is a hypothetical framing adopted by the reviewing judges during an appeal.

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  • I thought I would comment on your answer, Jen. I'm not sure that part of your answer "Then every defendant would win their appeal" is accurate. It appears to me that the "in the light most favorable to prosecution" argument is something established through precedence to apply to appeal cases (as all of you have said that such applies to matters that are appealed). If we take the contra of your statement that was part of your answer, it seems to be argued that allowing conflicting evidence in the light most favorable to prosecution enables prosecution to win. Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 16:52

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