Truth, Error, and Criminal Law: An Essay in Legal Epistemology

Forside
Cambridge University Press, 5. jun. 2006
Beginning with the premise that the principal function of a criminal trial is to find out the truth about a crime, Larry Laudan examines the rules of evidence and procedure that would be appropriate if the discovery of the truth were, as higher courts routinely claim, the overriding aim of the criminal justice system. Laudan mounts a systematic critique of existing rules and procedures that are obstacles to that quest. He also examines issues of error distribution by offering the first integrated analysis of the various mechanisms - the standard of proof, the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof - for implementing society's view about the relative importance of the errors that can occur in a trial.

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Judge Learned Hand1
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For this reason the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has
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Why would one ever set
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Justice Byron White for the Supreme Court1
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WhenImakethisargumenttofriendsandcolleaguestheysometimesremind
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the court that he does not intend to testify citing
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Side 38 - ... beyond a reasonable doubt. "What is reasonable doubt?" Shaw asked.55 It is a term often used, probably pretty well understood, but not easily denned. It is not mere possible doubt; because everything relating to human affairs, and depending on moral evidence, is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case, which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding...
Side 20 - Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
Side 225 - In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law ; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
Side 27 - Our dangers do not lie in too little tenderness to the accused. Our procedure has been always haunted by the ghost of the innocent man convicted. It is an unreal dream. What we need to fear is the archaic formalism and the watery sentiment that obstructs, delays, and defeats the prosecution of crime.
Side 45 - Moreover, use of the reasonable-doubt standard is indispensable to command the respect and confidence of the community in applications of the criminal law. It is critical that the moral force of the criminal law not be diluted by a standard of proof that leaves people in doubt whether innocent men are being condemned.
Side 225 - Admitting that the lottery tickets and materials were illegally seized, still this is no legal objection to the admission of them in evidence. If the search warrant were illegal, or if the officer serving the warrant exceeded his authority, the party on whose complaint the warrant issued, or the officer, would be responsible for the wrong done; but this Is no good reason for excluding the papers seized as evidence, if they were pertinent to the issue, as they unquestionably were. When papers are...
Side 33 - Reasonable doubt is defined as follows: it is not a mere possible doubt; because everything relating to human affairs, and depending on moral evidence, is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charge.

Om forfatteren (2006)

Larry Laudan is Principal Investigator at the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosoficas, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and president-elect of the Peirce Society. He is the author of many books, most recently Beyond Positisms and Relativism, and The Book of Risks.

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