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Beyond reasonable doubt

January 21, 2012

It's not often that I agree with Richard Dawkins, but his article in today's New Statesman on “reasonable doubt” is interesting. He speculates that in a two jury system you would not get a coincidence of verdict and that in consequence the assumption of “beyond reasonable doubt” cannot be sustained in consequence. Now running a two jury experiment over a series of trials and seeing what happens would be an interesting experiment. He suggests that running a parallel experiment with two judges might produce a better correlation. The experiment would be interesting and there is good reason to apply scientific method in social systems when we can.  

Of course, if we take the basic principles of distributed cognition (I remain uncomfortable with the more popular but inaccurate Wisdom of Crowds) then it would be better if the twelve good men and true (apologies for sexism but I am quoting) were say five pods of three each optimised for diversity making decisions independently of each other. Pods would allow for some discussion, but not the entrained patterns of discussion so well portrayed in many a film. Of course we could go with Sid James in Hancock's Half Hour and cut the cards: anything under 7 and he's guilty.

anything under 7 and he's guilty

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