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Beyond Reasonable Doubt? [Also in Polish] - Comments

Rattlesnake's Avatar Comment 1 by Rattlesnake

Very interesting; having just come out of giving a class to a judge.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 14:42:25 UTC | #911705

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 2 by irate_atheist

Highly thought provoking.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:01:07 UTC | #911708

RDfan's Avatar Comment 3 by RDfan

The matter hangs on the definition of reasonable doubt and the reasonable person -- who is either a juror or judge. Both terms have an interesting history; they have been giving law students and experts a headache for, well, several centuries; and, they still differ in meaning depending on the jurisdiction in question. Until there is a clear understanding of these terms (there is not), I can't see how the matter can be resolved legally, let alone scientifically. Maybe someone else can. (Incidentally, the Japanese apparently have a 99.7 percent conviction rate for cases brought before the court. Do they know something no-one else knows?)

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:13:34 UTC | #911711

Sample's Avatar Comment 4 by Sample

I look forward to the JDs chiming in with their lawspeak. I haven't seen SteveHill lately and if memory serves, I think he's in the law profession. You around Steve?

Mike

PS. I see on the New Statesman that Gingrich is called America's most dangerous man. Fittingly we have Britain's most dangerous man in the same issue.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:20:36 UTC | #911715

crucialfictionofjesus's Avatar Comment 5 by crucialfictionofjesus

"Does anybody think a second jury is likely to have acquitted O J Simpson?"

Yes- provided all 12 are black racists as the first lot. Now wait for the howls of racism...

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:21:15 UTC | #911716

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 6 by crookedshoes

I'd like to add that evolution passes the "reasonable doubt" measuring stick.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:23:12 UTC | #911717

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 7 by Peter Grant

I remember the last time the Prof wrote about this he said:

And if, at the end, somebody objects to my argument on the grounds that humans aren't herring gulls, I'll have failed to get my point across.

I notice that there is no mention of them this time.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:26:18 UTC | #911719

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 8 by Premiseless

I always recall my chemistry teacher, having had the class of 30 do several repeated experiments over a number of weeks, burning various metals amongst other compounds, had us all record what we saw, and attempt to reason on some results.

He furnished us each time with all the information, freely available to refer to, and with all the necessary procedure to find the requested results.

He predicted that, even though we were grammar school 14 yr olds, only a minority would follow instructions and be certain about their thoughts on this.

True, true, true, true - week after week 3 to 5 children returned flawless method and observations concurrent with their conclusions. 84% to 90% of a grammar school population are unable to repeat scientific method in sustainable ways even when nurtured so to do i.e. can't cook a cake with all the ingredients and come out with a palatable result.

Apparently this was in line with every trial he had performed using this experiment - designed to teach scientific method and how erroneous the thinking responses of the majority of humans. Apparently these results were always higher than those for secondary modern schools. I recall being slightly in shock - then and since when I ever contemplate that the majority of humans err in how they process sequential information , let alone information utilising many variables. ( and all the while this dogmatic parasite of theism was in the background of my mind eating away at otherwise more healthily formed emotion - to reason ratios)

Then onto maths and to understand how most data arrive in the form of probabilities , NOT logically sequenced inputs as in the chemistry 'fixed for success' trial. It takes many people a while to get their heads around probabilities and how they inform most of the information we receive,

"Is he lying when I'm trusting him?"" Should I have suspected and made her feel guilty when it might be me whose being suspicious?"" But they did it to me so maybe that's a fair balance??" Very ill informed logic often based upon probabilities of trust due all manner of cues that could be equally deceptive or honest. Sequences are even more poisoned - or trustable. "Brain damage can result." - as Jimmy Saville used to say!

So, taking the above into consideration: the degrees to which humans per se are poorly adapted to processing slightly complex sequences of correct information; coupled with the extent of the misinformation we are usually presented with as an only measure of anything; it is remarkable many conclusions whatsoever come out as absolute, rather than in orders of likelihood - which of course is the scientific way of making statements about all conclusions drawn from evidence based inputs.

Next I could go into bias, where most individuals have been coerced into roles which respond with subservience to certain authority personas etc. However that would simply overstate the case I already think obvious.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 16:00:34 UTC | #911729

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 9 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 1 by Rattlesnake :

Very interesting; having just come out of giving a class to a judge.

I'm curious. What sort of classes do judges take, and how did you come to be giving one?

Richard

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 16:09:39 UTC | #911731

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 10 by The Jersey Devil

I was on a jury once in my life. It turned out to be a hung jury. As instructed, we didn't speak to each other until we started deliberations. Once we started, I couldn't believe what I was hearing from the other jurors. It was as if they had been observing a completely different trial. Things got so heated at one point I almost got into a fist fight.

I have to admit, at one point we had the stenographer read back part of the transcript and I was surprised at how poorly I had remembered the testimony from just a few days before.

Anyway, ever since then I've been in favor of professional juries. Why leave some guys fate in the hands of 12 randomly selected people? Pfft.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 16:42:10 UTC | #911738

Erik's Avatar Comment 11 by Erik

A related problem stems in no small part from the fact that many jurors are swayed by things that are really outside of the relevant evidence. My first step towards leaving litigation was a lecture early in my career by a seasoned litigator who produced some astonishing figures on how jurors make up their minds on a case in the opening statement. Let's not even start the discussion of how racial or ethnic prejudices figure into it.

That's why courtroom dramas can be so interesting, and aggravating -- because lawyers know that if the facts are not on your side, you had better appeal to an irrational emotion. If you're the prosecutor, that might mean something like showing gruesome photos of the victim. If you're the defense, maybe you try to make the arresting officers look like racists or opportunists willing to fudge the evidence.

So when the judge and lawyers and parties are on tenterhooks while the jury deliberates, it may be because they know the jurors could actually focus on something irrelevant. That speaks to the value or not of having a jury system, but throwing that out has its own problems.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 16:51:54 UTC | #911742

valla's Avatar Comment 12 by valla

I think that the jury system is an anachronism: it made sense in the past as a reaction against the judges who were in the hands of the kings and aristocrats.

In advanced democracies, which respect the principle of independence of the judiciary, it doesn't make sense to leave the most important job in the courtroom, i.e. to decide on the verdict, to the least prepared in the courtroom: the presiding judge, the prosecutor and the defence attorney all went to law school and have extensive professional experience, while those who make the final decision are not required to have any specific training. The verdict should be the job of a college of professional judges.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:03:03 UTC | #911745

Jeremy Nel's Avatar Comment 13 by Jeremy Nel

I strongly suspect that two judges, forbidden to talk to each other, would have a higher concordance rate than two juries and might even approach 100 percent.

I come from South Africa, and we don't EVER have jury trials here. The court verdicts are entirely decided by a judge (or several judges in certain important circumstances, such as for constitutional issues). Furthermore, In this country, judges are usually chosen on the basis of a distinguished legal career as a barrister or solicitor (or "advocate" and "attorney", as we call them here).

I can't help but think that this is almost always a better way to do things. Instead of 12 LAYMEN potentially deciding the fate of someone's life*, you (hopefully) have a person of legal distinction and above average intellect, who is au fait with the various possible ruses and shenanigans of a court trial. Surely such an individual is better suited to decide matters? I know I'd prefer a judge, rather than a jury, to decide my fate any day - provided I was innocent!

Of course, even this strategy doesn't ameliorate all the problems rightfully illuminated by Richard, but I do think it's step in the right direction. Perhaps we should ALWAYS have at least two independent judges in the South African system. Thoughts?

*Not that we have the death penalty anymore, of course!

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:07:34 UTC | #911747

Jeremy Nel's Avatar Comment 14 by Jeremy Nel

Ah, I see Valla has made essentially the same point.

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:08:17 UTC | #911748

Stephen of Wimbledon's Avatar Comment 15 by Stephen of Wimbledon

I'm not really clear on the objective of this column.

Is it to say that juries are not perfect? Then I think that needed to be said, and I'm glad that someone is standing up to Old Media's common assertion that trials produce results solid enough to end a human life.

Is it to say that because juries make mistakes, this is a good reason not to have a death penalty? Then my reply is the same.

Is it to say that the typical court system is hopelessly inadequate - because it insists on a digital result?

Is it to say that juries are a waste of time and need to be ditched?

If we call into question the English legal system (the most widely adopted and imitated system in the World today - by a wide margin) then we must, it seems to me, be prepared to do at least two things:

  • Say clearly why a system that has evolved over centuries is now unfit to survive in the current environment

  • Say what we believe the alternative should be

  • Why has the legal system evolved to include juries? Originally, lest we forget, Magna Carta defined a jury as a collection of the indicted person's peers. While we could argue that this sounds a little cliquey we should remember that there was an undoubted political aim: to protect people from rigged juries, a Star Chamber, or the whim of a Dictator.

    Although few trials are likely to be so political in nature - the very existence of recourse to trial by jury has proved enough to eliminate most political misuse of the courts in recent centuries. That's an outstanding record, when compared to the alternatives.

    Some have said that we should re-interpret the word peer to mean those of the same, or similar, profession. This would appear to be a particularly good idea in cases of fraud (such as financial fraud), or professional misconduct (such as a botched medical operation) where there is clear evidence that juries of ordinary people are bamboozled by sharp lawyers who bury them in detail. But I digress.

    Then we have the evolution of the phrase beyond reasonable doubt (BRD).

    Today BRD is used, or rather misused, by the newspapers as much as it is used by the legal profession. Like rule of law, or liberal, or free speech the Old Media have a particular take on this - designed to exercise the emotions of their audience and promote their own interests at the expense of everyone else's.

    If it had been said that BRD is a term that is technical in nature, and is often misused outside the courts, then I would have readily agreed that we should:

  • Castigate media publishers and producers frequently and regularly (bring back the stocks!)

  • Ask that juries are given a briefing on the correct meaning of BRD as part of their introduction on their role

  • Ask that judges include a reminder of the above in their summing up

  • But BRD is, as I understand it, a part of the system that works with the burden of proof. The emphasis is on the Accuser to back up their accusation with some evidence and, as a natural consequence, the Court must assume the innocence of the Accused. This means we must give the jury a yardstick by which they can measure this evidence - because the outcome is now balanced on the quality of the Accuser's case. BRD sets the bar high (as the language itself implies). It has to, in order to provide the jury with a simple tool by which to measure any type of evidence. It also has the secondary consequences of limiting vexatious prosecutions and ensuring that those found innocent can truly hold their heads high.

    Isn’t it enough, you may say, that there are 12 people on the jury? Doesn’t that provide the equivalent of 12 replications of the experiment? No, it doesn’t, because the twelve jurors are not independent of one another: they are locked in a room together.

    This comment misses the point of a 12-person jury. 12 is it is a relatively small number that can be sub-divided into more sets of integers (jury factions) than, say 8, or 10, or 15. But it is big enough to give, in most circumstances, some diversity of opinion.

    Next, a jury is closeted together for the very reason that it is being castigated for here: Because a single Jury decision is a digital decision. It is undoubtedly true that those who listened intently and are intelligent enough to understand all the evidence and who are confident enough to give an opinion will sway a jury. Why would you think the objective was anything else? Positive secondary consequences also apply here - but moving swiftly on ...

    Which brings me to: Why digital? Why only Guilty or Not Guilty? Why not probably, or maybe? The answer seems pretty obvious to me. A digital decision is:

  • A singularity. Everyone present knows that a point of no return has been reached when a jury gives its verdict. Many guilty individuals break down at this point. There is no escape, even in self-delusion. The fact that they are guilty is irrefutable even to them. There are many positive aspects to this; justice is seen to have been done and everyone knows that they can, they must, move on.

  • Not the final word. Despite everything I just said, the most common next step is for the Judge to apply some probability perspective - and some context - to sentencing.

  • Society as a whole needs a digital result. Each case costs significant resources - so it had better produce results. Case law that produced 'maybe 1, or maybe 3 ... or 17 ... perhaps' rulings - and someone accused of a heinous crime wandering around freely because 'we only kind of think he might be guilty - we're not totally definite, you know ... '? HMMM!

  • In addition, in most jurisdictions, there is the possibility that new evidence will trigger a retrial or an appeal.

    I believe the above column is therefore looking at BRD outside its proper context and from the perspective of both the newspapers and the fact that some trials fail to reach the right conclusion.

    Not for the first time on RDFRS, I find myself pointing at the Media.

    If you are going to be sceptical - it is vitally, fundamentally, important - that you first, second and last apply your scepticism to how society is reported.

    If you must read a newspaper, read one tomorrow that you think might take a different tack - then listen to a radio programme or, most important of all, visit a Net site or three.

    It worries me that, for those of us living in Britain, the whole Scotland debate is being managed by the media. No good can come of it. But I digress again.

    What I am proposing, as a bare minimum, is that we should acknowledge that “beyond reasonable doubt” is a hollow and empty phrase.

    In the Old Media sense, yes. Good luck with changing their minds. Perhaps you could put some RDFRS resources into an on-line newspaper? I'd read it.

    If you defend the single-jury system as delivering a verdict “beyond reasonable doubt”, you are committed to the strong view, whether you like it or not, that two juries would always produce the same verdict.

    But no-one says that (outside Old Media). Okay, maybe some cooky politicians to lazy to move beyond the soundbite too - but no-one of any substance says that (by-the-by, how revealing, I immediately equated a politician with being insubstantial ... ).

    Finally, we come to:

  • Say what we believe the alternative should be
  • I can’t suggest any well worked-out alternative to the present jury system, but I still think it is terrible.

    Oh dear.

    Most jury systems, like most democracies, have evolved. I therefore propose an analogy between the two. I hope I will be forgiven for borrowing, and amending, Churchill's famous speech to the House of Commons in November 1947:

    Many forms of legal hearing have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that trial by jury is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that trial by jury is the worst form of legal hearing ... except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

    What I am proposing, as a bare minimum, is that we should acknowledge that “beyond reasonable doubt” is a hollow and empty phrase.

    In the legal sense; be careful what you wish for.

    Peace.

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:12:25 UTC | #911751

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 16 by Steve Zara

    What a fascinating discussion topic.

    comment 13 by Jeremy Nel

    I know I'd prefer a judge, rather than a jury, to decide my fate any day - provided I was innocent!

    I absolutely agree. Having professional and qualified judges deciding on verdicts would help avoid one of the real scandals of so many legal systems - that you can purchase verdicts. If you are rich, you can afford a large legal team and very expensive lawyer. I find that deeply disturbing. Why should someone's guilt or innocence be at all dependent on the quality of court performance (among other things) of a well-paid lawyer, as against the facts of the case?

    My view is that the current system of private lawyers should be scrapped and replaced with a National Legal Service, similar to the National Health Service, so quality legal support is available to all, dependent on need and not dependent on wealth.

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:18:02 UTC | #911753

    oeditor's Avatar Comment 17 by oeditor

    "Best of three" might be a safer system.

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:22:15 UTC | #911756

    Labyrinthos's Avatar Comment 18 by Labyrinthos

    Imagine a jury reaching a verdict on the origin of the diversity of life, with Charles Darwin as one of its members, making his case for the first time in history in the deliberations behind closed doors. Was it a god or nature?

    Imagine the gasps of surprise when the verdict comes back "natural processes" beyond any reasonable doubt! Two philosophers in the corner would mutter unimpressed: "predictable..".

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 17:59:03 UTC | #911768

    Labyrinthos's Avatar Comment 19 by Labyrinthos

    Imagine a jury reaching a verdict on the origin of the diversity of life, with Charles Darwin as one of its members, making his case for the first time in history in the deliberations behind closed doors. Was it a god or nature?

    Imagine the gasps of surprise when the verdict comes back "natural processes" beyond any reasonable doubt! Unimpressed, a philosopher in the back row would mutter: "how predictable..".

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 18:01:41 UTC | #911771

    AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 20 by AtheistEgbert

    Let's face the truth--the court systems and the state are not rational systems. They're pragmatic institutions developed over time, with no real justification other than through force. That doesn't mean we should give up on reforming them and making them less insane. In an ideal world the state ought to be a protective institution for society and individuals, but the reality is that the state becomes an authority unto itself and most people go along with it and obey it.

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 18:22:56 UTC | #911779

    glenister_m's Avatar Comment 21 by glenister_m

    Re: Comment 10

    You comment reminds me of a couple of incidents in teacher's college. The first was when the class was given the same set of 10 essays to mark, and the same marking scheme. When we compared grades at the end, the spread of marks for some of the essays was quite a shock, eg. from 7/20 to 16/20 for one of them. The second was when we were given a picture to write about. When we compared notes, it was also quite a contrast in what we considered writing about. Different people focused on different details, some of which were either beneath my notice, or I considered too obvious to mention. So we had a couple of lessons on how different other people's perspectives are, and that what you think is obvious or right may not actually be that way to other people.

    I've never served on a jury, and although I haven't had the chance to put it to the test, I've heard that being a high school science/math teacher, many lawyers are prone to dismiss you as you are less likely to be swayed by anything other than evidence. Possibly a Canadian urban legend, but I can see the point if the evidence slightly favours a guilty verdict.

    Considering the popularity of cellphone cameras, city webcams, etc. Big Brother really is watching you. It probably won't be much longer before some visual evidence will be available to support or disprove anyone's alibi for almost any crime.

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 18:37:52 UTC | #911789

    JHJEFFERY's Avatar Comment 22 by JHJEFFERY

    Oh, Jeebus! A lifetime (or more--seems more) as a trial lawyer and now I get hit with this from my friends :(

    I have tried so many cases to juries that I have actually lost count, although full disclosure demands that I mention I never tried a criminal case.

    The premise of the OP argument is its weakness. Society must have a means of effectively enforcing its laws. The question then becomes what means should be used to accomplish that purpose. Non-digital (i.e., non-final recommendations or guesses) processes cannot accomplish that purpose. If the jury returned with a verdict that the defendant was 65% likely to be guilty, what on earth would be the next step? I will return to this shortly.

    From the OP:

    the judge who, as soon as the jury has delivered its verdict, is prepared to give the order for execution — or release the prisoner without a stain on his character.

    Technically this is not true in the US, although it once was. After a jury has reached a verdict, the judge will be called upon by the defendant to reject the verdict, which she is allowed to do, if, in her descretion, the verdict is not supported by the manifest weight of the evidence, or if a error in the application of the law has occurred. If the judge decides to let the verdict stand, another trial is held for the sentencing aspect of the case in front of a jury. Both decisions are subject to appeal.

    But let me tell you this as a veteran of the wars: I have been the recipiant of several jury verdicts that I did not think were warranted, and the loser in a few in which I felt aggreieved by the jury's lack of understanding of the evidence. But I have never, and mean never, wished the decision had been placed in the hands of a single judge. Contrary to the experience of Jeremy in South Africa, lower court judges in most states are chosen by voters, who know nothing about them. Campaigning is severely curtailed and judges often win because their names sound judicial. Federal court judges are political appointees, as are the judges of state appellate courts. If there is a worse way to staff the judiciary, I am not aware of it. Some, of course, are intelligent and disciplined and people of integrity. Most are slothful, narcissistic, of average intellectual capacity, and generally unreliable. Stop and think of this for a moment--its a question that I ask myself about clergy as well--what type of individual would want to make a career out of pronouncing judgment on other people. The psychological characteristics of such an individual would seem to automatically disqualify them for the position. I have seen judges make far more idiotic decisions than any person off the street would have made.

    Returning for a moment to the two jury idea: the cost of seating a jury, requiring upwards of 30 people to be examined in voir dire for hours at a time, is prohibitive. Florida, like most states, has gone to juries of 6 in civil cases. Even so, I have arrived at trial on some occassions to find that we did not have a sufficient number of prospective jurors to proceed. The idea that we could make the process more accurate by making it more complex may or may not be true (I doubt it) but it is completely unworkable.

    In a complex medical malpractice or products liability case, you will undoubtably come up with a jury of limited education and intelligence who will barely understand the testimony if they happen to be awake during the presentation. Even so, they usually come up with the right decision (OJ excepted). Speaking of OJ, many lawyers saw that coming. The prosecutors (low paid) were no match for the defense team and tried the case in the wrong venue.

    OK. Off the soap box. Yes, the system sucks, even though it works most of the time. And perhaps, if we had a better selection process for the judiciary a panel of professional judges might be better. The chances of this overhaul actually occurring here in the USA are nil.

    JHJ

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 19:02:33 UTC | #911799

    John P's Avatar Comment 23 by John P

    The analogy to scientific experiments is a bit off, too. "Jury" is referred to in the singular, as if two juries would double the protection. But a jury is made up of 12 individuals (more or less, depending on the jurisdiction). It is not a single monolithic entity. A more apt analogy would be to liken it to 12 experiments being performed on the same set of data.

    Of course, I know the pressures to get some jury members to conform, and the effect that has on a jury consensus, which simply highlights the inadequacy of the original analogy. It's not an apples to apples comparison of science experiments and legal trials.

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 19:27:02 UTC | #911807

    Premiseless's Avatar Comment 24 by Premiseless

    Comment 11 by Erik :

    A related problem stems in no small part from the fact that many jurors are swayed by things that are really outside of the relevant evidence. My first step towards leaving litigation was a lecture early in my career by a seasoned litigator who produced some astonishing figures on how jurors make up their minds on a case in the opening statement. Let's not even start the discussion of how racial or ethnic prejudices figure into it.

    It's amazing how biased many humans desire to be.

    That's why courtroom dramas can be so interesting, and aggravating -- because lawyers know that if the facts are not on your side, you had better appeal to an irrational emotion. If you're the prosecutor, that might mean something like showing gruesome photos of the victim. If you're the defense, maybe you try to make the arresting officers look like racists or opportunists willing to fudge the evidence.

    Due process - perversion of justice for an emotional verdict? And why not throw in some basic human traits whilst we're forcing our agenda?

    So when the judge and lawyers and parties are on tenterhooks while the jury deliberates, it may be because they know the jurors could actually focus on something irrelevant. That speaks to the value or not of having a jury system, but throwing that out has its own problems.

    It is staggering how many lawyers play to the knowledge about how human nature is best invested in for offence or defence and how this alone heavily biases a juries probable decision in advance of the evidence. This also biases the sorts of evidence considered of high value rather than how pertinent to the process it informs the best-fit outcome. An emotional solution trumps a rational one. Speculation by nature and justice by outcome!

    The difficulty of course is one atheism knows well!

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 20:22:03 UTC | #911831

    Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 25 by Richard Dawkins

    Contrary to the experience of Jeremy in South Africa, lower court judges in most states are chosen by voters

    Well, obviously, if judges are chosen by VOTERS, all bets are off, and you might as well have a jury. I naturally assumed that judges were chosen for their qualifications and suitability for the job.

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 20:57:59 UTC | #911844

    JHJEFFERY's Avatar Comment 26 by JHJEFFERY

    Comment 25 by Richard Dawkins

    Contrary to the experience of Jeremy in South Africa, lower court judges in most states are chosen by voters

    Well, obviously, if judges are chose by VOTERS, all bets are off, and you might as well have a jury. I naturally assumed that judges were chosen for their qualifications and suitability for the job.

    Richard, it's even worse than that. The candidates are severely restricted in their presentations on the pretense of a judicial race not becoming a partisan affair. They are not allowed a party afffiliation, for example.

    But the nomination process does little better. It is true that we have some fine lower court federal judges, but these are usually chosen by a panel of attorneys and recommended for appointment by the president. Once you get beyond the trial level, however, the process degenerates into a "pander to the base" partisan exercise in which Republicans appoint right-wing conservatives and Democrats appoint left-wing liberals (all must be approved by the pres.) Judicial ability is last on the list of selection criteria (if it's even on the list at all!).

    That is why we end up with a Supreme Court capable of making batshit crazy rulings like Citizens United, which IMnotsoHO, would have to climb up a notch to be merely stupid--it was intellectual dishonesty on parade.

    JHJ

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 21:26:24 UTC | #911850

    debonnesnouvelles's Avatar Comment 27 by debonnesnouvelles

    Hear, hear... An eminent man once said "I still wouldn't trust myself to sit on a jury..."

    Thu, 26 Jan 2012 23:06:43 UTC | #911869

    pipsy's Avatar Comment 28 by pipsy

    If you have never seen this movie you should.

    12 angry men

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Angry_Men_(1957_film)

    Fri, 27 Jan 2012 04:28:49 UTC | #911920

    Chomolungma's Avatar Comment 29 by Chomolungma

    Another point against the notion of "beyond reasonable doubt" is that there is a trial in the first place. If the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that the accused was guilty b.r.d. they would be more likely to plead guilty and hope for a lower sentence. Pleading not guilty (necessitating a trial) only makes sense when there is enough ambiguity in the evidence to have a shot at arousing reasonable doubt in the jury. Of course, people do not always act rationally, a criminal could use this line of reasoning to plead not guilty as a form of reverse psychology. It does introduce doubt however.

    Fri, 27 Jan 2012 04:33:53 UTC | #911921

    pipsy's Avatar Comment 30 by pipsy

    "Capital punishment", "Sentenced to death" and "Execution" are each, nom de plumes for pre-meditated murder.

    Fri, 27 Jan 2012 04:44:51 UTC | #911923