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  • Writer's picturePeter Lindstrom, Esq.

Dave Chappelle’s Reasonable Doubt: It’s Closer to the Minnesota Standard Than You Think

Updated: Oct 24, 2023


It’s played up to comical proportions in the Chappelle Show skit. Chappelle’s requirements to believe R. Kelly was properly identified from the infamous peeing tape were numerous. The fifteen year old victim would have to show two forms of government identification observable on tape, with multiple independent eye witnesses on scene, and R. Kelly’s grandmother would need be there to to identify R. Kelly as well. It’s a joke. But the impassioned monologue from Chappelle earlier in the episode about reasonable doubt and the high burden the State has was not a joke. Reasonable Doubt is actually a very high standard. Much higher than some of us think.


In Minnesota, the reasonable doubt jury instruction is: “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is such proof as ordinarily prudent men and women would act upon in their most important affairs. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense. It does not mean a fanciful or capricious doubt, nor does it mean beyond all possibility of doubt.” (CRIMJIG 3.03). The jury instruction is not perfect, but my grievances with Minnesota’s instruction is beyond the scope of the post. The point being that it is a very high standard. And the burden remains with the State. Sometimes the prosecutor will attempt to shift the burden during their arguments at trial saying that the Defense did not prove something. The Defense does not have to prove anything. It is the State’s burden to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s why Chappelle held on to such skepticism about whether the State had proved their case in the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trial. As Chappelle jokes about with both of the defendants, he was also less than convinced that they were necessarily innocent. But reasonable doubt is a high standard that the State must meet to bear their burden in a case.


If you are accused of a crime in Minnesota, you want to make sure to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer who can argue reasonable doubt for you. Call Subzero Criminal Defense and we can start working on your case as soon as today. 651-248-5142, peter@subzerodefense.com.


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