The OJ Distinction
“We believe, based on the totality of the evidence, that it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski.”
–“Tom Brady Probably Knew Footballs Were Doctored, NFL Finds“; The New York Times (5/6/2015)
“Two senior Secret Service agents were “more likely than not” impaired by alcohol when they drove through the scene of an investigation of a suspicious package outside the White House.”
–“Watchdog: Two Agents Were Likely Impaired”; The Wall Street Journal (5/15/15)
Apparently, nobody is simply guilty of anything anymore.
Rather, some quasi-governmental entity simply proclaims, after a lengthy investigation, that it is “more likely than not” that the subject(s) did whatever it was they were accused of doing.
What’s that about?
Did the Butler Do It? More Likely Than Not
If you’re not a lawyer (or a former lawyer, in my case), it’s about two, competing standards for determining guilt (or liability, in the case of a civil trial).
The first is the familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” — what a jury must believe to hold someone criminally liable.
The second is “preponderance of the evidence,” the much lower standard typically applied in civil matters that simply requires more than 50% certainty.
Or, as the media translates it, “more likely than not.”
That’s why OJ Simpson can be acquitted of murdering two people, but was later held civilly liable to the victims’ families.
I’m just waiting for a politician caught with their hand in the cookie jar to say during a press conference: “Were mistakes made? It’s more likely than not.”
P.S.: What’s even more watered down than “preponderance of the evidence”?
Financial scofflaws who settle with the SEC for hundreds of millions (or more!) while “neither admitting nor denying guilt.”