Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Confidence Intervals of Justice

The typical standard of proof with which most of us are familiar in a criminal case is "beyond a reasonable doubt." I have always presumed that this means an attempt to make the probability of convicting an innocent person (Type I errors) small, while accepting that a much higher probability that guilty people will go free (a Type II error).

In Russian criminal cases, the standard of proof is much lower; Type II errors (freeing guilty defendants) are frowned upon (registration required).
"Judges think of themselves as soldiers in the front line fighting crime," said Sergei Tsirkun, who was a prosecutor in Moscow for 10 years and in that time never lost a case. "A judge is not going to pass an acquittal unless he is absolutely, 100 percent confident that someone is innocent. If he has the slightest suspicion that someone might be guilty, he will find them guilty even if he has to ignore problems with the evidence."

In fact, judges who appear to be too lenient are removed from office.
In Russia, the conviction rate in criminal cases heard by judges is around 99 percent, according to the administrative arm of the country's Supreme Court. The rate has persisted since the early 1950s, the last years of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, when the work of judges and prosecutors was automatically reviewed if a defendant was acquitted.

The situation appears to be changing, but slowly and painfully.
Who Links Here