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September 10, 2004

Mathematics, a veritable sorcerer

Class QOTD: "I know you're sophisticated law students, but you can still laugh like hell. He made up the statistics!" —Prof. Evidence Prof. Evidence was referring to People v. Collins, 550 F.2d 1036 (1968), known as "the probability case" because it discusses what's required to to establish that evidence of probability has been properly introduced and used by the prosecution in a criminal case. The court wrote:
"As we explain in detail infra, the testimony as to mathematical probability infected the case with fatal error and distorted the jury's traditional role of determining guilt or innocence according to long-standing rules. Mathematics, a veritable sorcerer in our computerized society, while assisting the trier of fact in the search for truth, must not cast a spell over him. We conclude that on the record before us defendant should not have had his guilt determined by the odds that he is entitled to a new trial."
Take that all you statisticians and numbers wonks! Your sorcery is not welcome here!

Posted September 10, 2004 10:28 AM | 2L law school

It was a funny case - and produced my favorite line from a case thus far this semester: "At best, it [the proffered calculation] might yield an estimate as to how infrequently bearded Negroes drive yellow cars in the company of blonde females with ponytails."
Just struck my funny bone.

Posted by: Kelly at September 11, 2004 10:11 PM

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