Recently Atlanta Television Channel 11 had a story about a person who was serving ten years in prison after he was found "not guilty" at trial.
At first glance, the story would appear impossible to most people. However, it is, in fact, true that Ramad Chatman has been sentenced to serve ten years in prison.
How is it possible?
Mr. Chatman was on probation at the time of his arrest for robbery. The standard of proof to convict someone at trial is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” When a jury is unsettled or unsatisfied, that is the doubt of the law, and they must acquit an accused person.
Substantial proof, however, is not needed to revoke someone's probation. In Georgia, the standard of proof to revoke someone's probation is whether there is a preponderance of evidence against the accused.
A preponderance of evidence means that something is more likely than not to have happened. Think of it as 50% plus one.
In Mr. Chatman's case, a jury did not find evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a robbery. However, a judge (since you cannot get a jury trial on a probation violation) did find that he committed the same robbery by a preponderance of the evidence.
Superior Court Judge John Niedrach disagreed with the jury's verdict and revoked Mr. Chatman's probation, sending him to prison.
Judge Niedrach disrespected the jury's verdict by revoking Mr. Chatman's probation. According to the news reports, Mr. Chatman had been abiding by the conditions of his probation. His only violation was the allegation that he committed a robbery (for which he was acquitted).
Judge Niedrach found by a preponderance of evidence what a jury did not find beyond a reasonable doubt. It is extremely sad in 2017 that we can send someone to prison based on such a low burden of proof.
It is also unsettling that we have bad judges like John Niedrach who impose themselves above and beyond the opinion of a jury of 12 people from his community. Lower standard of proof notwithstanding, this judge did the wrong thing and should be voted out of office.
The Standard of Proof in a Georgia Probation Violation is too low and needs to be changed. If you are charged with a violation of probation in Georgia, call now. We are here to help.