Truth, Science, Law Trial by Jury

How do you discover Truth?
It depends. A lot.
You have the well-known Scientific Method where you can test and retest and ask the same question as much as you like.
But then – you have Law. Discovering Truth in the Legal System is a much different affair and depends entirely on where you find yourself.
Trial-by-Jury is a part of Common Law and can be found in many countries. There are many exceptions, of course. But there’s an interesting thing about Double-Jeopardy that we hardly ever think about:
If you are found Guilty, you can typically appeal due to new evidence, faulty trial, any number of reasons.
But if you are Acquitted (cleared of wrongdoing), that’s pretty much it. Free to go. The burden of Guilt rests with the prosecution.
It has many positive aspects;
Imagine if there was no double-jeopardy rules: if you were unpopular for some reason or a theoretically corrupt system could retry you over and over again for the same crime, picking different jurors, changing parameters until you get the result you’re looking for.
[somewhat like the Scientific Method in fact]
If we were dealing with chemicals or surveys, hypothesize, test, etc would be quite fine.
But you’re dealing with people. Messy, awkward, people with feelings and lives and things they gotta do each day.

But at the same time, we have a rush of new methods of Science – especially in the cognitive science and DNA departments, among many other sciences.

And, in an even more compelling manner than the woman who gets off from killing her kids then brags 20 years later and goes, “hah, YOU CAN’T GET ME NOW – should’ve done your job right back then!” – the new scientific methods are changing the 800 year old Common Law Double Jeopardy in significant ways, all across the countries that practice their versions of Common Law. The changes in the kinds of compelling evidence are quite interesting; although often too much Faith can be placed in brain scans and DNA tests, as we’ve seen… yet it does seem to be extraordinarily more helpful than “he said / she said / look, there was a cigarette butt at the scene of the crime that matched her lipstick and was her brand”. Fine for its day, but our truth discovery processes are improving.

Scotland and Australia almost seem to have an inverted Double-Jeopardy now, where Double-Jeopardy is basically allowed, except in minor crimes.

I’m neither for or against any of this; I’m not nearly smart enough to know “what’s right”. But the differences between countries are interesting to me; and I think the Scientific Method is, indeed, finding its way into Court Systems, bit by bit, around the world in a way.

The future should prove interesting.

Will we ever have a computer replace a Jury? Perhaps. I expect we’d start seeing a panel of Scientific Experts entirely replacing the Jury System first. A piece of me still likes the “jury by peers” idea though; even with all of its problems. Are communities responsible for their own members?

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