THE RULE OF INCREDIBLE DUBIOSITY
One of my favorite legal terms is known as "the rule of incredible dubiosity." This unique sounding phrase describes a rule that is applicable in criminal cases only. It is a means of testing the sufficiency of evidence to support a conviction. It seems to be a rule that is unique to Indiana.
As applied in the Hoosier state, the rule is: "If a sole witness presents inherently improbable testimony and there is a complete lack of circumstantial evidence, a defendant's conviction may be reversed....Application of this rule is rare and the standard to be applied is whether the testimony is so incredibly dubious or inherently improbable that no reasonable person could believe it." Fajardo v. State, 859 N.E.2d 1201 (Ind. 2007).
As a civil litigation attorney, I have very little opportunity to use the rule of incredible dubiosity in my legal practice. I think that it is a great concept, though, and I like to apply it to everyday life. In fact, I suspect that everyone probably has applied his or her own incredible dubiosity test on many occasions.
Did the dog really eat the homework? Did the wife really stay out all night because she was having fun with her girlfriends? Did the major league baseball player really not know that he was being injected with steroids? Did the CIA really lie to Nancy Pelosi? I think that we each formulate our own answers to these and many other questions based upon the application of our own rule of incredible dubiosity. We decide whether the story seems too absurd to be believed, and formulate our opinions based upon that decision.
In the civil litigation arena, I like to informally apply my own rule when I am dealing with questionable testimony from witnesses. Sometimes people tell stories that seem so unlikely that I feel certain that the jury will ultimately discount and/or ignore them. Each juror, I am convinced, informally applies his or her own rule of incredible dubiosity in deciding whether to believe proffered testimony. I think that's human nature, and that's probably a good thing.
So the next time you suspect that someone may be telling you a whopper, you may want to consciously ask yourself if their tale seems to be inherently improbable. If so, you just might want to let it be known that the speaker has failed the incredible dubiosity test.
Labels: legal rules and terminology