Legal versus Factual Innocence

Based on our conversation with David Asper today about the Stobbe case, do you think it is fair that Stobbe is found factually innocent? Do you agree with the idea that we have created a new verdict in Canada called “Not Proven Guilty”?

Please comment by Thursday and be sure to comment on the posts of your peers.

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16 thoughts on “Legal versus Factual Innocence

  1. Personally I think that in this trial, that it was fair for Mr. Stobbe to be factually innocent. Alot of the general public who have followed this case may disagree with the verdict and think that Mr. Stobbe is guilty, but we must not neglect the fact that many of us, being unfamiliar to the legal system,do not have the same type of knowledge as a judge or a lawyer does. Most of the information that we get comes from the media, which in most cases, is biased to some degree. On the contrary, the judicial system is suppose to be as impartial as possible, with the criminal being innocent until proven guilty. The facts and evidence that is heard inside a courtroom can be distorted by the media, meaning that people may hear misleading information. So while many of us still feel that Mr. Stobbe is guilty, the reality is that the crown in the case failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Stobbe murdered his wife, which causes the judge to believe that there is a high possibility that Mr. Stobbe is innocent. Even if the judge thought Mr. Stobbe was guilty before the trial began, they must still hear the evidence, because it would be absolutely unjustified for an innocently accused person to serve a harsh prison sentence. However, just because the crown was unable to prove Mr. Stobbe's guilt doesn't mean that he is entirely innocent, and so I agree with the verdict of 'not proven guilty. What this does is it enables our legal system to serve justice better. Usually in many cases, the reason why an accused is found not guilty is not because they're innocent, but because there has not been enough evidence to convict. However, in the future, there is the possibility that new evidence may be found. This may allow the judge to reopen a case, and hold a suspect accountable when their guilt can actually be proven. There is the rule that an individual cannot be tried for the same offense twice. But is the law really justified? What if there was a person who is actually guilty, but there was not enough proof to convict them? Then later, there is enough evidence to make them accountable. Why should we try to compensate morality for a law that should be considered to be obsolete? It just doesn't make sense. Laws should constantly be changing, and they should ensure that people who break the law should be punished by it and people who follow the law should be protected by it.

  2. I think that it is fair for Mr. Stobbe to be found factually innocent. Much of the evidence presented in the case was circumstantial and it is up to the crown to prove Mr. Stobbe guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While there are no alternative suspects yet, this does not mean Stobbe is guilty. While the general public may already presume Mr. Stobbe to be guilty, this is largely due to a bias created through media coverage and lack of legal knowledge. It is not up to the crown to prove Mr. Stobbe innocent; without a solid case against him, it would be unjust to hold him accountable for a crime that cannot be undoutably proven.I do not agree with the verdict of "Not Proven Guilty," as it is still assuming guilt, despite the evidence presented and is the polar opposite of what our legal system is supposed to stand for. The defendent should not have to prove their innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. In psychology, we learned about a phenomenon known as "groupthink". This mode of thinking occurs within groups of people when the "desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives". Groupthink often overrides critical thinking and causes people to overlook alternative ideas or viewpoints. In the high-profile case of Mr. Stobbe, the negative media portrayal has predisposed the public to presume Mr. Stobbe guilty. I wonder what has caused the increase of the "Not Proven Guilty" verdict in recent cases. By doubting the Crown's ability to serve a proper sentence and establishing a verdict through public opinion, has we lost faith in the Canadian justice system and it's ability to effectively tackle crime?

  3. The question in this case is not simply one of fairness. Of course it's fair and legitimate to Mr. Stobbe that he's found factually innocent, given the fact that he's always maintained his innocence. It's fair and legitimate under the law because the Crown failed to prove all necessary details. The crux of this debate is justice. Was it just and in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice that Mr. Stobbe was found not guilty? Did the legal system do its job? To both of those questions, I would say no. From our study of the case and various papers, etc. that we've done in class, I would say that the real problem is in the overall handling of the case by the Crown even before the trial. When four leading prosecutors in AB tell not to go ahead with the case, you don't just plough ahead with it! Getting somebody shipped in from BC didn't help in the least bit either. The grounds on which they chose to prosecute were shaky at best and not well-presented. As Mr. Asper said, jurors are people too. After five days of intense cross-ex in which the person won't even look at you, they're going to tune out! I'm not saying that that's the reason that he was found not guilty, but it quite possibly was a contributing factor. After the verdict is delivered, you might think that the mishandling would stop. But I would contend, like Mr. Asper, that finding someone "not proven guilty" is merely the Crown punishing someone for they're incorrect handling of the case. Really, it's no different than if you made a mistake at work and someone else continues to take the blame for it. They didn't argue the case well; therefore, Mr. Stobbe should be able to move on with his life. Unfortunately, he will always be stigmatized by the suspicion and the trial that shouldn't have been. I personally think it's very sad that we are unable to give people second chances in society. It really represents a fundamental shift in our society as a whole. Before, we used to be able to wait for guilt to be proven. Now, we expect the accused to prove their innocence. The onus has shifted, but not just in the courtroom.In conclusion, lawyers and society should not punish those found innocent for their mistakes. However, it is a trend that is unlikely to reverse in our post-9/11 society (seriously, have you ever gone through airport security? I feel guilty just walking in there!).

  4. The decision that Stobbe is factually innocent seems fair enough to me. Almost all of the evidence was circumstantial, and the only direct evidence was sketchy at best. Although it certainly seemed like he was te perpetrator , the justice system doesn't work based on people being seemingly guilty. The phrase is "guilty beyond a reasonably doubt". None of the evidence was able to prove that to anyone involved. The decision was placed in the hands of Justice Martin and the jury and if their judgement dictates his innocence, the public should be able to accept that.I don't agree with the concept of the "not proven guilty" verdict at all. The criminal justice system is one place in which there really isn't a grey area. You either committed the crime or you didn't. If the Crown is unable to prove your guilt, then you're innocent. That should be the end of the story. Being labelled as "not proven guilty" leaves a weight on the shoulders of the accused that an innocent verdict would not. Having that kind of title following you around can be extremely detrimental to someone's social interactions. It's unfair to the accused and to everyone around them. Punishing someone for the incompetence of the lawyers involved in their case is not a good way to handle things.

  5. I’m neither a detective nor judge, so I can’t tell if this man is guilty or innocent. But according to what I have read, this is a typical case of legal vs. factual innocence. In this case there was some really good evidence on Mark Stobbe’s side, but also there were a lot of questions against him that still need to be answered. If it was Mark Stobbe who killed his wife, then what was his motive? And where did the stranger’s DNA come from? Also there are problems with the eyewitnesses, because the case happened twelve years ago, they probably can’t remember that well, and their accounts varied as to time and place. If it was a robbery, then why would the robber kill her in such a brutal way? Why would the Police find blood, hair and even small bone fragments from his wife in his backyard? And how did the robber break in, kill his wife in the backyard, take her body out of the house and drove her dead body to a gas station that was 15 miles away? In the Mark Stobbe case, there were too many questions like these needing to be solved. But however it was the Crown’s job to find sufficient evidence and prove him guilty. Mark Stobbe was not obligated to find evidence and prove his own innocence. In this murder case, most evidence that the Crown had was circumstantial, and the Crown did not find enough direct evidence that could prove him guilty, so Mark Stobbe could only be let go, even though there were still a lot of questions and disputes.

  6. Stobbe being factually innocent is a completely fair verdict as the crown simply could not bring up any evidence that pointed to Stobbe being the murderer. However, I do not agree with the new verdict being created of not proven guilty. The purpose of a trial is not only to determine who is responsible, but it is also to find out what actually happened. With the verdict of not proven guilty, an entire trial can partake and conclude without ever knowing what truly happened. It is strongly believe that Stobbe was not the killer, but than who is? What happened? How did Mrs. Stobbe get murdered? These are three crucial and imperative questions that need answers, but probably will not get because the case was not solved, only Stobbe was not found guilty. It doesn't makes sense that Stobbe can be found innocent if the actually story of his wife's death is not known. Stobbe is believed to be innocent, however, he is not officially innocent, however, he also is not guilty.

  7. I think that Stobe being factually innocent is not surprising. The crown did not have a very convincing case that was filled with circumstantial evidence. The response form the victims sisters was very surprising and interesting because we listened to a phone call that was recorded and it seemed that at least one of the sisters was on Stobe's side. I wonder what happened between that time period to lead her to believe that Stobe is actually guilty. Perhaps it was the fact that the killer tried to clean up all the blood in the backyard? The evidence gathered was not enough to find Stobe guilty without a reasonable doubt. With every case comes all sorts of opinions and theories on what "really" happened. These opinions are at times clouded with numerous things such as, the victims family member may feel the accused is guilty because thats a way she is dealing with his/her grief. People are quick to judge and believe that they really know what is going on. That is why I believe that the term "factually innocent" is so popular and it will probably never go away. There have been people have been proven innocent/guilty in cases where all signs point to the judges/jury ruling, yet there are people who still argue that the judge/jury got it wrong! People like to talk and think that they know what they are talking about and thats why I think that the term "not proven guilty" may not really be fair, but it will always be there.

  8. I think that Stobe being factually innocent is not surprising. The crown did not have a very convincing case that was filled with circumstantial evidence. The response form the victims sisters was very surprising and interesting because we listened to a phone call that was recorded and it seemed that at least one of the sisters was on Stobe's side. I wonder what happened between that time period to lead her to believe that Stobe is actually guilty. Perhaps it was the fact that the killer tried to clean up all the blood in the backyard? The evidence gathered was not enough to find Stobe guilty without a reasonable doubt. With every case comes all sorts of opinions and theories on what "really" happened. These opinions are at times clouded with numerous things such as, the victims family member may feel the accused is guilty because thats a way she is dealing with his/her grief. People are quick to judge and believe that they really know what is going on. That is why I believe that the term "factually innocent" is so popular and it will probably never go away. There have been people have been proven innocent/guilty in cases where all signs point to the judges/jury ruling, yet there are people who still argue that the judge/jury got it wrong! People like to talk and think that they know what they are talking about and thats why I think that the term "not proven guilty" may not really be fair, but it will always be there.

  9. In many cases of law ,we have a scapegoat that we must prove to be innocent or guilty. Mark stobbe in this case was that scapegoat. His wifes mistiours murder was a tradgey and society forced the police into charging Stobbe because with no conviction there would have been outrage. This is the problem with our society today; although Stobbe was found innocent, we still believe that he killed his wife in a visous attack. Our society has now accepted that although a person may be found legally innocent, they have not been found factually innocent. Although Stobbe was acuitted, soceity still believes he was the killer. There was no facts linking stobbe to the murder, there was also no facts showing he was 100 percent innocent. So Mark Stobbe was in fact the scapegoat in this case;The reason why we have law is to keep society in order, by having both Factual innocence and legal innocence, it shows that we have no faith in our legal system. Although a defendant was found innocent if it isnt the verdit we like, we still hold it in our minds that they are guilty. Making it almost impossible for the charged to ever clear there names. Society has made it that if your charged until you have been proven innocent in both ways that in the eyes of the public you are still guilty, and their for an outcast. In my opinion i dont agree with factual innocence, The reason why we have law to keep society in order and by having factual law it shows that we dont trust our own justice system. This is going to cause tons of problems later on, making that you have to go through two trials rather then one. This would be unfair the the defendant and a huge economical burden on our society. There should only be one innocence and that should be the one that is proven legally. thanks katlyn

  10. I think that it is very fair for Stobbe to be found factually innocent. Yes, the case was filled with a lot of circumstantial evidence, but there was not enough direct evidence to support the Crown's case. Because of the lack of evidence, the Crown was not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stobbe was in fact the murderer of his wife. If there is even the littlest bit of doubt, which there was in this case, then the accused must be found innocent. A lot of people probably believe that Stobbe is guilty, but that may be from the media distorting society's beliefs, or just a general lack of knowledge about law. Since there is not enough evidence to prove that it was actually him, it would be completely unjust to find him guilty. I do not agree with the term "not proven guilty" because you cannot be in between when it comes to criminal offenses. I think that you are either found guilty or innocent, and nothing else. To leave Stobbe as "not proven guilty" is just not as comforting as having an "innocent" status. I think that Stobbe endured enough, and if the Crown cannot prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then they should let him get on with his life as best as he can at this point.

  11. The statement that Stobbe was found factually innocent seems quite fair. This case was a tricky one since there was no real “hard evidence” that tied Stobbe to the murder. The entire trial was merely based on circumstantial evidence. The crown failed and was unable to prove that Stobbe was guilty, thus he is factually innocent. It seems as though many people within our society don’t agree with this verdict, and they still assume Stobbe is guilty. That being said, we must trust the knowledge of the skilled judges and disregard any bias media influences.I do not agree with the verdict “not proven guilty.” This statement makes it seem like the accused is responsible for the crime but the lawyers were unable to confirm guiltiness. In our society, a person is either proclaimed innocent or guilty. Our entire legal system convicts people based on being proved “guilty beyond reasonable doubt.” So, if there is not enough evidence that suggests the suspect is guilty then they are innocent.

  12. I do agree with the final outcome of Stobbe being factually innocent and believe that it is fair decision. Whether he is actually guilty or not the Crown had a tough job seeing as how all the evidence was circumstantial. The large majority of the public disagree with the final decision and there a few possible reasons for this. The first is that not everything we hear from the media is 100% correct. A good amount of what we hear has been changed. The second reason is that most of the general public aren't lawyers and don't know a whole lot about the legal system. The reason he wasn't proven guilty was because the Crown wasn't able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was. Similar to what Emily said the verdict has been made and the public has to accept it.When it comes to the concept of "Not being guilty" I don't think that it is fair for the accused to be labeled as that. You're either guilty or not, there shouldn't be an in between.

  13. With science becoming such an integral part of how we construct a case and how we base our idea or "innocence" and "guilty", we as in the general public and media have come up with a 3rd sentence of factually innocent. Katlyn brings up very valid points as to how mark Stobbe was acquitted but really shouldn't have been, she calls Stobbe a scapegoat. I personally don't agree with this because all that happened in this case was that all the circumstantial evidence pointed to him. The only direct evidence was of a man saying he saw Stobbe riding his bike 10 years ago…I believe factually innocent makes a lot of sense. Finally we have an understanding of what someone is when they should be guilty but they aren't. But as I hate to agree with Katlyn, announcing someone factually innocent is essentially alienating someone from society which they "have not done". Spending your whole life as the general public knowing you killed someone but they Crown just mucked up on the case? How is this at all fair to any individual? It isn't! Therefore as the factually innocent statement seems to sound like an ideal tag on someone is simply is not fair. Damian Crowley

  14. Based on our conversation with David Asper today about the Stobbe case, do you think it is fair that Stobbe is found factually innocent? Do you agree with the idea that we have created a new verdict in Canada called "Not Proven Guilty"? I completely agree with the verdict of not guilty and I think it is perfectly fair because the case against Stobbe was entirely circumstantial. Stobbe’s factual innocence was also not surprising because the crown was not able to come up with any points that could prove otherwise. There was also no witness’ that distinctively saw Stobbe anywhere near where Mrs. Rowbotham’s body was found. According to both Mr. Asper and Mr. Killeen the crown did a terrible job at connecting the dots to “make a G for guilt out of the different pieces of evidence”. This leads into the idea of “not proven guilty” which has emerged in Canada. This new verdict relates directly to the Stobbe case because there may have been some possibility that Stobbe was guilty but because the terrible job done by the Crown he was declared Not Guilty. I believe that in the coming years with many cases going to court that may be similar in nature to the Stobbe case this verdict of “Not Proven Guilty” will become more and more common.

  15. I think that the verdict delivered by the jury was a fair one, and because of that, I have to believe that Stobbe didn't kill his wife. The Crown had a weak case to begin with, and it didn't help matters that the Crown also did a poor job of presenting the evidence in a way that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that Stobbe is guilty.Every Canadian citizen has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I believe strongly in the presumption of innocence, and the idea of "not proven guilty" is a concept that is contrary to Canadian rights.

  16. Personally I think that Stobbe being determined factually innocent is very fair. I believe in every Canadian citizen being innocent until proven other wise and in this case he could not be proven guilty. The crown did a very poor job of analyzing, submitting and presenting evidence and witnesses. For that reason alone I agree with the final decision despite the amount of people that would disagree and say that he definitely killed her and that he is 100% guilty. Many of these people hear this in the news or read it in the news papers and information from those sources are often not 100% real and the information is usually not exactly the truth. Many people who disagree also do not really understand the legal system and because of this often dont know facts they just jump to an assumption and stick to it because they dont like how Stobbe acts or how he looks. I do agree with the verdict of not proven guilty because if the crown can't provide the judge/jury with proper evidence to fully prove that Stobbe committed the murder on his wife then how do we really know if he did it and how would we know if he was rightfully convicted?

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