Not Proven

From Academic Kids

Not Proven is a verdict available to a court in Scotland. Under Scottish law, juries deciding criminal trials have three verdicts which they may return. In addition to Guilty and Not Guilty, under certain circumstances the Not Proven verdict can be given.

The Not Proven verdict states that the court believes the prosecution presented insufficient evidence of proof rather than that the person was not connected at all with the crime; the court is stating that there remains considerable doubt regarding the offender's innocence.

The effect of this unique verdict is the same as one of Not Guilty, in that the defendant is released without punishment or criminal record. It also provides protections from double jeopardy. The effect on public opinion can be quite different, however, as it suggests that the person is thought to be guilty but was released only because the prosecution had not gathered enough evidence.

An example of this error can be found in nineteenth century Glasgow. Socialite Madeline Smith is widely regarded as having been found guilty of murder. The case was not proven, but Smith is still popularly regarded as a convicted murderess.

In the eyes of the law, a Not Proven verdict is the same as a Not Guilty verdict. However, a Not Proven verdict, of course, can tarnish the reputation of the person involved in the trial.

Senator Arlen Specter voted Not Proven in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, citing Scottish law. This was unusual because Not Proven is not an available verdict under United States criminal or civil law. Specter later wrote, "History will not say the president was not guilty, although he was entitled to acquittal because the charges were not proved at a Senate trial, but historians will reject William Jefferson Clinton's brazen contention that it was all Republican politicians and a right-wing conspiracy."

Not Proven is often referred to as the Scottish Verdict or the Scotch Verdict.


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