Burdens of Proof, Presumptions and Standards of Proof in Criminal Cases

Author:WY Wodage
Position:LLB, LLM, Assistant Professor, Bahir Dar University, School of Law.
Pages:252-270
SUMMARY

In jurisdictions that subscribe to adversarial mode of litigation, burdens and standards of proof have significant roles in the adjudication and determination of criminal cases. The operation of the principle of presumption of innocence in such jurisdictions determines issues of who bears what burden and the extent thereof. The Ethiopian criminal procedure system predominantly exhibits... (see full summary)

 
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DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v8i1.8
Burdens of Proof, Presumptions and
Standards of Proof in Criminal Cases
Worku Yaze Wodage
Abstract
In jurisdictions that subscribe to adversarial mode of litigation, burdens and
standards of proof have significant roles in the adjudication and determination
of criminal cases. The operation of the principle of presumption of innocence in
such jurisdictions determines issues of who bears what burden and the extent
thereof. The Ethiopian criminal procedure system predominantly exhibits
adversarial features, and there is the need for the comprehension and
enforcement of the respective burdens and standards of proof borne by litigants.
The constraints in clarity are more pronounced in those criminal law provisions
that embrace some form of presumptions such as provisions on corruption
offences. This note highlights how issues of burden and standard of proof are
allocated as between prosecuting authorities and accused persons. Apart from
explaining the nexus between the principle of presumption of innocence,
burdens of proof and standards of proof, it indicates the implications of the
operation of the principle of presumption of innocence upon the allocation of
evidential and persuasive burdens of proof as between the state and the
accused. It further outlines the effects of the various forms of presumptions
upon the different kinds of burdens of proof.
Key words
Burden of proof, standard of proof, easing of burden of proof, criminal cases,
presumption of innocence
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Introduction
Prosecution of corruption offences especially those involving possession of
unexplained property in Ethiopia appear to be somewhat marred by confusions
and dilemmas. Some court cases1 demonstrate the nature and extent of problems
LLB, LLM, Assistant Professor, Bahir Dar University, School of Law.
1 See for example, the Workineh Kenbato & Amelework Dalie V. the SNNP Ethics &
Anti- Corruption Commission case (Cassation Division of the Federal Supreme Court,
Cassation File No. 63014, Judgment given on Miazia 9, 2004 E.C). This is a case that
involved prosecution of possession of unexplained property. It started at Hawasa City
N
NOTE 253
pervading in this area of the criminal law. Limitations in comprehending the
unique nature and varying forces of the different forms of presumptions upon
the different kinds of burdens of proof arising in criminal trials complicate
matters. Sometimes we witness contradictory decisions among the different
hierarchies of courts in identical cases that bear similar issues and similar
evidence. It is apparent that the term ማ ም is employed in many legal
proceedings, but often with less clarity. There are confusions regarding the
interrelationship between burdens of proof and presumptions, and their interface
with other issues such as the principle (right) of presumption of innocence.
This Note sets out to expound how issues of burden and standard of proof are
allocated as between prosecuting authorities and accused persons in criminal
trials in general. It explains the nexus between the principle of presumption of
innocence, burdens of proof and standards of proof; it treats the implications of
the principle of presumption of innocence upon the allocation of evidential and
persuasive burdens of proof as between the state and the accused. It further
outlines the effects of the various forms of presumptions upon the different
kinds of burdens and standards of proof.
The first section of the note highlights the notion of burdens of proof and
their operations in criminal trials. Section 2 considers the interaction that exists
between the different kinds of presumptions and the various forms of burdens of
proof. The third section addresses issues relating to standards of proof, followed
by concluding remarks.
1. The Notion of Burdens of Proof and their Operations
1.1 Overview
Issues of burden and standard of proof are analyzed in the light of the material
(actus reus) and moral (mens rea) elements of an offence in a charge. The
analysis involves: (1) an examination of the allocation (distribution) of
obligations to introduce evidence and to prove particular material and moral
facts that establish an offence in a charge, and (2) a determination of the degree
to which those facts must be proved.
High Court. Then it went all through the Appellate and Cassation divisions of the
Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State Supreme Court and then
after reached to the Cassation Division of the Federal Supreme Court. After
thoroughly reviewing and revoking the decisions of the regional courts, the Cassation
Division of the Federal Supreme Court remanded this case again to the Hawasa City
High Court for re-trial. This Division has given a binding interpretation of Art 419 (1)
of the Criminal Code (2004). The interpretation has to do with burdens of proof
standards of proof and presumptions.

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