HA4050D – Healthcare Law Discussion 04.1: NAUXChange 04 In a very famous case in the 1990s, O.J. Simpson was found “not guilty” of murdering two people. Then, a short time later, he was found civilly liable for the deaths of the very same individuals and was ordered to pay damages to their families. How was that possible? What does it say about how the burden of proof differs in criminal trials and civil trials? Briefly research and explain.


The O.J. Simpson case in the 1990s is well-known for its unique outcome, where Simpson was found “not guilty” in the criminal trial and later held civilly liable for the deaths of the same individuals. This case raises important questions about the burden of proof and its differences in criminal and civil trials. This discussion aims to explore these differences and provide an understanding of how Simpson could be acquitted in a criminal trial and then held liable in a civil trial.

The Burden of Proof in Criminal Trials:

In criminal trials, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, who must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard of proof is the highest burden of proof in the legal system and requires the prosecution to present sufficient evidence to convince the jury or judge of the defendant’s guilt. The requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt ensures that individuals are not wrongfully convicted and protects their fundamental right to liberty.

The Burden of Proof in Civil Trials:

Contrary to criminal trials, civil trials have a lower burden of proof called the “preponderance of the evidence.” In civil cases, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard means that the plaintiff must show that it is more likely than not that their version of events is true. Unlike in criminal trials, the burden of proof in civil cases does not require certainty or proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Differences in Burden of Proof:

The distinction in burden of proof between criminal and civil trials stems from the differences in the consequences and purposes of these legal proceedings. Criminal trials seek to determine whether an individual is guilty of a crime and, if convicted, potentially face imprisonment or other severe penalties. Given the serious consequences of criminal conviction, the law places a higher burden of proof on the prosecution to ensure that innocent individuals are not wrongly convicted.

On the other hand, civil trials primarily aim to resolve disputes between parties, such as contractual or tort-related matters. The consequences in civil trials are typically financial in nature, with the intention to compensate the injured party or restore them to their pre-injury state. Due to the potentially significant financial consequences, the burden of proof in civil cases is slightly less demanding than in criminal cases.

Application of Burden of Proof in the O.J. Simpson Case:

In the O.J. Simpson case, the burden of proof was different in the criminal trial, where Simpson was charged with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, and the subsequent civil trial. The criminal trial required the prosecution to prove Simpson’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a high standard difficult to meet. Despite some incriminating evidence, the defense was able to create doubts about Simpson’s involvement, leading to a “not guilty” verdict.

In the civil trial, the families of the victims filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Simpson. Civil trials are more permissive in terms of evidence admission, and the burden of proof required the families to demonstrate that it was more likely than not that Simpson was responsible for the deaths. The jury in the civil trial found Simpson liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay damages to the families.


The O.J. Simpson case exemplifies the differences in the burden of proof between criminal and civil trials. While Simpson was found “not guilty” in the criminal trial, he was held civilly liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. These differing outcomes demonstrate that the burden of proof in criminal trials is higher, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while civil trials have a lower burden of proof, requiring a preponderance of the evidence. Such differences exist to ensure the fair administration of justice and protect the rights of individuals in both criminal and civil contexts.