This fundamental truth of justice was apparently a challenge for the Midway court to discern…
The question is this: was it primarily the prosecution’s duty to prove all the charges through evidence and witness testimony in the trial?
Or was it primarily RE Dudt’s duty to produce evidence showing each claim made in the indictment was not true?
In other words, if the prosecution called no witnesses and introduced no evidence, and if RE Dudt called no witnesses and introduced no evidence, should the court vote to convict RE Dudt or clear him?
Wikipedia accurately explains the burden of proof as most people understand it:
The term “burden of proof” is a party’s duty to prove a disputed assertion or charge, and includes the burden of production (providing enough evidence on an issue so that the trier-of-fact decides it rather than in a peremptory ruling like a directed verdict) and the burden of persuasion (standard of proof such as preponderance of the evidence).
SPECIFICATION 31 OUT OF 40
RE Dudt stated the following specification of error against the Midway Session in his appeal:
31. The Session of Midway Presbyterian Church of the Presbyterian Church in America erred in procedure when the moderator was asked by a member of the court to clarify if the burden of proof rests on the prosecution in church court as in public courts. The moderator replied that church court is different than the secular court, but did not provide a clear answer to the question. This is in contradiction to the ruling in SJC case 1998-08, which states clearly that the burden of proof rests on the prosecution. This demonstrated the moderator’s confusion on a basic principle of Biblical justice, and his reply therefore created confusion among the members of the court and resulted in an irregularity in the trial.
THE SJC PANEL’S RESPONSE
The SJC panel concurred with RE Dudt. It wrote:
This specification of error is sustained.
A Minute Explanatory. The burden of proof is placed on the prosecution. SJC 1998-08 states: “The fact that the burden of proof is on the prosecution is clear from several procedures in our BCO. First, the reason why the prosecution argues first at trial, and has the closing remarks, is because the burden of proof is on the prosecution. Second, the accused is not required to testify and the defense need not even present a case. The prosecution, however, must present a case. Third, if an accused person ignores repeated citations to plead, or to appear for trial, that person can be censured for contumacy. He is not, however, censured for the offense on which he was indicted because his guilt on that charge has not yet been proven.”
IMPLICATIONS OF THIS VIOLATION
When asked, the Moderator gave no clear answer, but apparently issued a misleading statement by implying that church courts are different than secular courts.
That may lead the judges to believe that the prosecution does not have to present sufficient evidence to prove their case.
To justify their ruling, the SJC Panel quoted from the precedent case that RE Dudt cited in his appeal. That case points out from the BCO why the burden of proof rests upon the prosecution. As a long-time senior pastor and student of the BCO, Moderator Hall should have just as easily been able to draw the same conclusions.
That the answer to this straight-forward question by a seminary-educated pastor with decades of service in the church, who also holds a Ph.D in Christian Intellectual Thought, and who also served on the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA, was vague and unclear should be concerning.
Other errors identified by the SJC Panel imply prejudice and unsound judgment behind the trial of RE Dudt. This is just one more.