~ ~ ~
żUn-Reasonable Doubt?


With more and more juries requiring absolute proof for conviction of serious crimes like murder, we may need to tolerate hired assassins and vigilante committees -- to supplement a justice system that when originally created was more intuitive, but has in recent years mutated to demand more perfect proof than can reasonably be delivered - thus failing to protect us from perpetrators of violence .

One case in point is the recent disappearance of another American woman in Aruba. The reports are that the woman traveled to Aruba with a man she barely knew, who it seems took out a sizable life insurance policy on her. Then she disappeared. Her traveling companion filed a claim on the woman, and was apprehended as he was trying to leave Aruba. While he was held for several weeks, An Aruban judge ruled there was not enough evidence to hold him. No trace of the woman has been found.

Most of us intuitively feel that the suspect in this case is probably guilty of murder, and if not murder, than collusion to defraud the life insurance company. The most compelling clues of guilt are

1) his taking out an insurance policy on a casual acquaintance who is otherwise financially irrelevant to him;

2) the only benefit of insurance to him is personal enrichment if the victim dies; and

3) the fact that he also tried to collect on the policy - as if knowing the victim was no longer around to deny her death.

All of the above clues very strongly infer a criminal motive and act. At the very least, most off us are sure the guy should be imprisoned, if not executed. The failure of our criminal system is one of our own making, and thus correctable -- and that is the very flawed presumption of absolute innocence unless their is absolute proof of guilt.

Suspects in very serious cases routinely are set completely free -- because our failed justice system now requires too perfect a proof. The question in the juror's mind should not be "Are there any doubts?" but rather, is there any evidence pointing towards innocence.

Conviction "beyond a reasonable doubt" does not of itself require a perfect proof. Most of us are comfortable and certain when asked to identify what creature is lurking in the woods without ever having to see the complete beast. We can intuitively reconstruct scenes from partial views and evidence left at the scene. Where we fail is in tolerating a justice system that denies our intuitive capability.

Such intuition is not anti-logical. Rather it is a skill, much of which is innate within us, to reach valid conclusions with only partial information. In fact, almost all the information we must process and make decisions on is only partial information. We seldom, if ever, have perfect information at out disposal. And it is a skill we are pretty good at - especially if we consciously exercise and test it regularly.

This all argues for professional jurors, trained in and tested in forensic inference and making inferential decisions on partial information.

©2011 Simon Revere Mouer III, PhD, PE, all rights reserved