The uncertainty which exists in relation to a fact, a proposition or other thing. An equipoise of the mind arising from an equality of contrary reasons.
The embarrassing position of a judge is that of being in doubt, and it is frequently the lot of the wisest and most enlightened to be in this condition; those who have little or no experience usually find no difficulty in deciding the most problematical questions.
Some rules, not always infallible, have been adopted in doubtful cases in order to arrive at the truth. 1. In civil cases, the doubt ought to operate against him, who having it in his power to prove facts to remove the doubt, has neglected to do so. In cases of fraud when there is a doubt, the presumption of innocence ought to remove it. 2. In criminal cases, whenever a reasonable doubt exists as to the guilt of the accused that doubt ought to operate in his favor. In such cases, particularly when the liberty, honor or life of an individual is at stake, the evidence to convict ought to be clear and devoid of all reasonable doubt.
No judge is presumed to have any doubt on a question of law, and he cannot therefore refuse to give a judgment on that account. Indeed, in some countries; e.g., China, ignorance of the law in a judge is punishable with blows.