Special Reports

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The term “reasonable doubt” has a definition, which is:

The level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime. A real doubt, based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, or lack of evidence, in a case.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs. However, it does not mean an absolute certainty


            This definition is important because if it suggested that former District Attorney Ray Gricar was murdered, and someone is charged, this will be the standard of proof needed to prove, in a criminal trial, that the person is guilty.  Possibly, Mr. Gricar was not murdered, so there would be no criminal trial.  The other major options are suicide and voluntary departure, or walkaway.  So far as I know, neither in itself would be cause for a criminal trial.

            I am, going to advocate this position, if a solution other than murder is ever offered to close the case, it should be, just like murder, proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  It should be sufficient that if there, hypothetically, was a trial and law enforcement had to present the case for walkaway or suicide, the evidence would be enough to prove that theory to be beyond a reasonable doubt.

            I’ve discussed several scenarios regarding what happened to Mr. Gricar, based on the known evidence.  Some are stronger, i.e. more consistent with the known evidence, than others.  One murder scenario, Murder II: A Short Walk to Death, is exceptionally strong, as is Walkaway .   

            Suppose I wanted to end, for whatever purposes, the Gricar case, by offering a solution.  Maybe I wanted to see the headline, “Blogger Solves Gricar Case!”  (Don’t worry, that will never happen.)  I could present the evidence just for the walkaway scenario and say, “See, this is what happened.”  I wouldn’t note how much of the evidence could also point to Mr. Gricar being murdered.  Of course, I could also do the same with the murder scenario.  Neither scenario, even without dismissing on a lot of the evidence as coincidence, proves that Mr. Gricar walked away or was murdered.

            I am hoping that if and when a solution is announced, even if it is not a criminal act, law enforcement will lay out all the evidence to the public.  I am also hoping that the public will be as skeptical as I am, and carefully look at that evidence.

            Note that the level of proof needed for any scenario is not “absolute proof.”  The police would never have to have “absolute certainty” of murder, for example, to actually convict someone of murder.  They would need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to prove murder and to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, who committed it.  The standard of “absolute certainty” may be impossible to meet, for any scenario.

            I note, with some irony, that Mr. Gricar had to do this professionally as the District Attorney.  He argued, and got a conviction, on a case then District Justice Lunsford called, "one of the most circumstantial cases I've ever heard."  http://tiny.cc/9Fsm4  It is an interesting read and shows just how good a prosecutor Mr. Gricar was.

            Ray Gricar was a dedicated public servant who served the people of Centre County well for nearly 25 years as part of the criminal justice system.  He may not have been perfect or a “superman,” but he had an impressive record of ultimately serving you, Centre County residents, in government and as an important part of the law enforcement establishment.  He, and you, deserve to know than any resolution to his disappearance, is a resolution beyond a reasonable doubt.