Moonshine

 

D is prosecuted for operating an illegal whiskey still. The prosecution's only proof is that D was found at the site of an illegal whiskey still. Is that a sufficient basis for inferring that D was operating the still? Can the jury take into account the fact that D offered no alternative explanation of what he was doing at the site of the still?

Does it help if based upon the state legislature's adoption of a presumption the trial judge gives the jury the following instruction?

Under a statute enacted by the Legislature, when the defendant is shown to have been present at the site of the still such presence shall be deemed sufficient evidence to authorize conviction, unless the defendant explains such presence to the satisfaction of the jury.

How is the problem different if instead of the instruction above, the judge gives the following instruction?

If you find that the defendant was present at the still, then that fact should be highly significant in your consideration whether the defendant was operating the still. You should consider that fact together with all the other facts of the case--the time of day, what the defendant was seen doing, what he was wearing, the equipment in his car--in deciding whether you are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he was operating the still. This is a case based on circumstantial evidence. The fact that I leave it to you jurors to decide means that in my judgment it would be reasonable and legally supportable for you to reach a conclusion of guilt. It would also be reasonable and legally supportable for you to reach a conclusion of not guilty. It is up to you to decide whether, on considering all the facts and the defendant's explanation or lack of explanation, you are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was operating the still.

Does it make any difference that the only way D can put forward an explanation is by testifying himself? How do the next two cases, Yee Hem v. United States and Griffin v. California, relate to these questions and to each other?



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