Briefly identify the U.S. Supreme Court findings in the case of In re Winship.

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Supreme Court case of In re Winship, decided in 1970, the court ruled that the stronger standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt rather than the threshold of a preponderance of evidence applied to cases involving juveniles. In the case, Samuel Winship, who was 12, was accused of breaking into a locker and stealing $112. The New York Family Court found Winship guilty, using the less stringent standard of a preponderance of evidence, though the court stated that they could not find Winship guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

After appeals courts upheld the ruling, it was appealed to the Supreme Court to consider whether the preponderance of evidence standard applied to minors violated the 14th Amendment's protection of the due process of law. In ruling that juveniles should only be convicted after the court established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the Supreme Court stated that juveniles were entitled to the constitution's protections in the due process clause. The court ruled that the age of defendants does not matter, as they will all face loss of liberty if they are convicted. The ruling also made clear that defendants in state and federal courts can only be convicted if their guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt, establishing a stricter standard for conviction in criminal cases. 

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This Supreme Court case dealt with juvenile court proceedings.  If a juvenile was arrested and charged with an act that, if he/she were an adult, would be considered a criminal act, then the prosecution has an increased burden of proof.  That is, every element of the charge would have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt as opposed to the old standard, called "preponderance of evidence", where jurors were allowed to return a guilty verdict if the evidence overall pointed to guilt.

In cases following this one, In re Winship served as an important legal precedent for rulings that raised the standard of proof in all adult cases as well, in addition to juvenile ones.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This case, decided in 1970, is one in a series of cases that gave more rights to juveniles who were accused of crimes.

In this particular case, the Court ruled on the issue of the level of proof that was necessary in a juvenile case.  The Court ruled that every aspect of a juvenile's alleged crime had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  In other words, there could not be a lesser standard of proof for juveniles than for adults.

The Court ruled that Winship had been wrongly convicted because the court that convicted him hand used a lower standard of proof -- that of the "preponderance of the evidence."