HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Blackstone's formulation

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 12:55 AM

 

Blackstone's formulation

Is a fundamental principle of our system of justice; to protect its legitimacy, it's better to err on the side of caution and not punish the innocent even if some guilty people may go free.

Blackstone was a judge in England in the 1700's. He wrote:
"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"


He wasn't the first though... that basic principle had been in place since the 1400's. In fact, the Salem witch trial judge, Increase Mather said, "it were better that ten suspected Witches should escape, than that one innocent Person should be Condemned.", and "I) would rather judge a Witch to be an honest woman, than judge an honest woman as a Witch,"

Ben Franklin was of the opinion that the proper ratio was 100:1. John Adams described the reason for this; '(if)it is immaterial to (a person) whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.' And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever". In other words, If justice is unjust and simply a matter of luck and caprice, there's no reason to respect laws at all.

On the other end of the spectrum are utilitarians who would say that it doesn't matter, so long as the mass of people are content, or authoritarians like Bismarck and Pol Pot (better to see 10 innocent convicted than one guilty go free) or totalitarians like the founder of the Soviet secret police ("Better to execute ten innocent men than to leave one guilty man alive." - because "When you cut down the forest, woodchips fly."). How about this from modern Columbia; "Better to condemn an innocent man than to acquit a guilty one, because among the innocent condemned there may be a guilty man."?

So, what's your personal "Blackstone's number"? How many guilty should go free to prevent injustice to innocents?
2 votes, 0 passes | Time left: Unlimited
It depends on the crime. For very bad crimes we need to lock up enough people until we're sure we've punished ALL the guilty. If we get it wrong, we'll apologize later.
0 (0%)
1:10 - Those 10 are probably guilty of something.
0 (0%)
1:1 - some innocents will get locked up. C'est la vie
0 (0%)
10:1 - Blackstone and the Salem witch trial judge had it right
0 (0%)
100:1 - I'm with Franklin and Adams.
1 (50%)
Other
1 (50%)
Show usernames
Disclaimer: This is an Internet poll

9 replies, 6275 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply Blackstone's formulation (Original post)
lumberjack_jeff Dec 2013 OP
Butch McQueen Dec 2013 #1
Recursion Dec 2013 #2
davidn3600 Dec 2013 #3
lumberjack_jeff Dec 2013 #6
Blue_Tires Dec 2013 #8
Blue_Tires Dec 2013 #7
defacto7 Dec 2013 #4
bemildred Dec 2013 #5
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2013 #9

Response to lumberjack_jeff (Original post)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 01:22 AM

1. I'd Say 10,000 to 1 is still too many innocents punished

But that could come from having been falsely arrested before. Yeah, it was only one night in jail and it all got straightened out the next morning, but hearing a cell door slam shut, knowing that you've done nothing wrong, and realizing that your entire future hangs in the balance of a seriously flawed legal system is something that stays with you for a long long time.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to lumberjack_jeff (Original post)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 02:40 AM

2. 100:1 seems like a good quantification of "reasonable doubt"

I don't know that I've ever seen it quantified, but that would work out to "only convict if you're more than 99% certain the guy is guilty" (99:1 would be exactly 99% certain; 100:1 is a little more certain than that).

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to lumberjack_jeff (Original post)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 02:52 AM

3. Unfortunately it seems many would rather it be guilty until proven innocent

 

And the mob mentality is pretty bad...not just here but the country as a whole. Remember the circus with Casey Anthony? And then Zimmerman.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to davidn3600 (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 02:45 PM

6. The mob gets it wrong as often as right.

 

I am frequently surprised how little was learned from the Duke Lacrosse fiasco.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #6)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 02:51 PM

8. I'm surprised how little was learned from Tulia

And Troy Davis, (or even Mandela, for that matter....)

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to davidn3600 (Reply #3)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 02:48 PM

7. Zimmerman WAS fucking guilty

The failure of the cops, judge and jury (and some certain DUers) to see Martin as anything other than a ghetto thug who got what was coming to him doesn't change that fact...

Don't try to sneak his name in there like he's some martyr....

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to lumberjack_jeff (Original post)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 03:34 AM

4. 1000:1 n/t

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to lumberjack_jeff (Original post)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 08:56 AM

5. As many as necessary.

If you can't get real close to that, I think you should take another look at your laws, they might not be good ones.

But anyway, this argument is ambiguous, guilt and innocence are decided by juries (ideally), and are also considered to be matters of fact, and in the second sense it is often never surely known what the truth of the matter is, that's why there are juries, to decide matters of fact, so you don't really have any way to assess the ratio in question, other than speculation and anecdote, and the record of reversals and such. So there is a false precision in discussing whether it should be 1:10 or 1:100, you have no way to know.

But you can say that no person innocent of the alleged crime should be convicted, it's almost mathematical. So if you have doubts about that, you have work to do to fix it. There is no OK level of false conviction or imprisonment.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to lumberjack_jeff (Original post)

Fri Dec 6, 2013, 02:51 PM

9. here's the relevant part of what you put up:

 

If justice is unjust and simply a matter of luck and caprice, there's no reason to respect laws at all.

This is the way it is and has been for some decades now. There is no rule of law anymore, if there ever was.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread