Rockin Dave's Mailing List

Join Rockin Dave's list

Breaking News

Visit The Midnight Rock Music Lounge

Rockin Dave

It's time to visit

Look for this sign on Perimeter

I'm a 'leg' man

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: This Is Boogie Woogie!

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Still Rockin

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Shotgun Boogie

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Cadillacs & Moonlight

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: A Rocker

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Boogie In The City

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Hooked on Jive

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Nordic Dream

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Time For Rock

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Before The Dream

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Midnight Tone

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Songs From The Other Side

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor and The Drapes: Taylor-made for Rock

PURCHASE

Dave Taylor: Big Band Boogie & Jive

Angeles Weather

Rockin Time

Angeles City

Can twelve different jurors find someone guilty beyond reasonable doubt and all twelve get it wrong? It doesn't sound feasible, yet it happens in the British courts with continuing regularity. The purpose of this page is to explore these errors using a minimum amount of opinion and a maximum amount of science. The advent of DNA testing revealed that something like 7% of convicted people are probably innocent. Since some court cases are clear cut, it means the error rate is higher still in so-called circumstantial evidence cases. You could then add to this figure those occasional cases where a jury convicts but the decision is overturned on initial appeal. Now you wouldn't fly in an aeroplane that had a small fraction of that failure rate, so clearly something is seriously amiss. In case figures aren't your forte, with a 7% failure rate, only half the pilots would survive to make their tenth flight. It suggests that the judiciary only get away with it because huge numbers of people fly each day but comparatively few get to sit in the dock.

Are the jurors at fault? From a statistical standpoint that seems highly unlikely to be a frequent cause. Of course, the process of jury decision-making is different from scientific analysis. Independence of the sample data is crucial to any scientific evaluation, whereas jurors are deliberately encouraged to persuade each other to come to a unanimous verdict, so it isn't actually twelve separate assessments. Even so, allowing for the fact that some of us are easily led and some quite obstinate - and a few jurors no doubt just keen to get home - it still seems statistically unlikely that a unanimously wrong result should ensue very often.

You can imagine that a jury of twelve Daily Mail readers may not be attuned to the way someone preferring the Daily Telegraph behaves and such lack of peer review may lead to some misunderstandings. Again people vary considerably in their ability to weigh up competing information in a measured way. These misunderstandings however should only occur where the decision is essentially opinion oriented rather than firmly based on clear cut and well corroborated facts. It therefore suggests that it is the nature and quality of the information given to the jury that misleads them. The entertainment industry is a complicated business. Are twelve ordinary citizens capable of coming to a rational decision, especially when the prosecuting councel are deliberately deceiving them with false and misleading evidence?

Is it therefore the prosecuting counsels that are at fault? Well, certainly some of their practices are dubious from a scientific viewpoint and appear to be more aimed at leading and sometimes misleading the jurors rather than dispassionately informing them. It is true the defending counsel can do the same, but in common parlance two wrongs don't make a right and in statistical science two extremes don't lead to a balanced view. One side painting as black a picture as possible and the other trying to whitewash over it is no way to produce a true picture. You might say counsels on both sides are only doing their job, though clearly there is room for criticising the methodology that has devolved to them. There was clearly an annoying Dent in the prosecution’s case.

Is it therefore judges that are at fault? Well some judges do allow a lot of surmise to be put to the jury and then fail to highlight in their summing up which statements are factual and which are mere hypotheses. The evidence has been skewed by the use of a liberal amount of invention by the prosecutor about what might have happened overshadowing what is actually known to have happened. It is made worse when a judge - probably once a prosecutor themself - leans in the same direction. In the case of Mrs Sally Clark, Mrs Angela Cannings and Michael Shirley, it is showed clearly how judges and appeal judges did just that and failed each of the defendants by not meeting the high standards of scientific evaluation of evidence.

The prosecution with the support of the judge managed to persuade a jury that black is white, and white is black. One way the judge wrongly supported the prosecution was his failing to emphasise to the jury in his summing up that the imagined scenario was only an idea put to the jury by the prosecutor, not a known fact. Then the judge showed his hand again at the time of judgment when he passed sentence, despite knowing that the prosecutions case was only a hypothesis,and clearly showing how his personal opinions had pervasively been pressed on the jurors.

The CPS and a bevy of judges seem to be responsible for more than their fair share of miscarriages of justice. There was an incestuous arrangement between them - more serious still if it were insidious. Now the use of one expert witness in so many cases is cause for alarm. This was an incredibly contrived process and you can well understand the bewilderment of the defendant at what was happening to him, knowing nothing of the hidden activity beyond the court room. It is the prosecutors and judges who deliberately abused their position that are the real culprits, though unlike most people they cannot be called to account for their actions.

All the judges and prosecution are doing is hypothesising. Anyone with a minimal understanding of probability, knows that building one hypothesis on top of another has rapidly reducing value and then calling it evidence is hardly a responsible statement. It shows a lack of understanding of the principles of Bayes Theorem and an incapability to evaluate probabilities and evidence in a measured way.

It might seem a bit far-fetched that an undistinguished person like myself can see certain things more clearly than a long list of judges. However mine is not a lone voice. Even a QC described the efforts of the three judges at Mrs Sally Clark's first appeal as "intellectually dishonest". Personally, I would prefer to say "intellectually incompetent", since dishonesty implies you can read the judges' minds and claiming to understand a person's thinking is far too common an assumption made in court processes. Was the right-to-life advocate who murdered a doctor for performing abortions insincere or just mentally blind to the obvious inconsistency of his reasoning? There is no doubt that it is difficult for any of us to be aware of the gaps in our understanding and there is much evidence that quite a few judges lack the skills of measurement and the discipline of consistency that come with scientific training and scientific analysis of evidence.

Law faculties at many universities have developed units exploring miscarriage of justice in recent years (for example, Bristol & Leeds in UK and Griffith & Bond in Australia) and organisations like Innocent.org.uk, add individual cases to their websites with disturbing regularity. So far, less work has been done on the more general question of examining the fundamental causes and the means to reduce future occurrences. That requires a science faculty to get involved.

The police forces readily use science to advance their effectiveness. Forensic science does the same. It is therefore incongruous that the final decision-making part of the process refuses to embrace science. It is topsy-turvy that the final step in the process puts opinion above demonstrable facts when all earlier stages put facts above opinions. The Royal Statistical Society and other learned bodies have several times made offers to assist the judiciary but have been repeatedly spurned. Of course all elements of the process involve humans and occasional rogue policemen, scientists, doctors, lawyers and judges are to be expected. However, for such a long list of judges to be guilty of misrepresenting evidence points to systematic error rather than roguery. One obstacle to getting the existing processes changed is the judiciary are essentially accountable to no one and that has led them to a position, in Britain particularly, of having no interest in change. We certainly don't hear the phrase "as wise as a judge" as often as we used to and that is hardly surprising. Perhaps the replacement adage will be "as uncaring as a judge".

There is certainly something very strange going on here and the points made by myself also show the unusual vigour with which this prosecution case was pursued.

There is a well known article on "Judges & Barristers" that refers to the hate, spite and vengeance industry. Let's be generous and just say that while the clergy are preachers of forgiveness, the judiciary are not unhappy with a bit of vindictiveness. You wouldn't want to have much compunction to be a hangman and the courts are clearly only one step away, so black humour might be to their liking and we might claim this adds a motive in their combined attack. There are all sorts of pointers suggesting something terribly wrong with this verdict. It is still just a hypothesis but, as you see, it is just what some prosecutors and judges mislead jurors into thinking is evidence and it would show how out of control the profession has become.

Prosecutors use "tricks of the trade" to get the jury to decide their way and plenty were used in my case. The evidence was inconclusive so the game was played out giving innocuous day-to-day happenings a malevolent interpretation and imaginary scenarios were invented to capture the minds of the jurors. The principle that if you throw enough mud, some will stick, is hardly worthy of a court room. There was even an attempt to pin a charge of harbouring my Brazilian wife on me though the alleged evidence for that turned out to be non-existent. The case was dropped before the trial had begun, but it had done its job. This technique acts as a useful distraction from the actual evidence.

The judge was complicit in this device by allowing this to be introduced by the prosecution, and by allowing the harbouring charge to be introduced in the first place. Invented evidence, sexual discrimination, the prosecution made lewd and suggestive remarks even to their own witnesses, with no regard to the feeelings of those witnesses, and harassment, the one witness that I was allowed was subsequently deproved of his state benefits to which he was legally entitled due to having suffered a debilitating stroke,- do these prosecutors and judges know anything about the current laws of the land? The real culprits are the barristers that play on the weaknesses in the system and judges that have no qualms about juries being misled. As people know, if you feed a computer rubbish, what comes out will be rubbish and the same principle applies to juries.

What quality of summing up by the judge could have led to such self-contradictory findings by twelve different people? Further pressure was put on the jurors by making them continue their deliberations through the weekend. There is no doubt there are many opportunities for a judge who empathises with the prosecution to influence the jury and clearly this is done, despite the impression of impartiality in their fine rhetoric.

One fundamental question is what does "beyond reasonable doubt" mean and why don't they just say "beyond doubt". Is it a deliberate encouragement to use personal feelings and prejudices rather than the factual evidence? The judiciary know it is just playing with words because Mr Justice Owen in July 2000 told a jury "you don't have to be certain, you only have to be sure". Even the subtlest of dictionaries can't find a difference between the two and you can only conclude the judge was trying to push a jury in a certain direction by implying there is a measurable difference, when there is none. So "reasonable doubt" is just another court practice that distracts the jurors from simple concentration on the known evidence.

If the prosecution evidence in a case doesn't come down to one or two unassailable facts, it stands a good chance of being a medley of half-truths and rich in innuendo. Indeed the strength of a prosecution case is likely to be in inverse proportion to the time the case takes to present. After a certain time it becomes a maze of unmeasured ideas and unsorted information and suspiciously like yet another technique aimed at befogging the minds of jurors.

In Britain it is not even a jury decision of 12 people but a permutation of any 10 from the 12. The system is rigged to get a result and if two jurors do not agree they are ignored.

Jurists are quite fond of catchy sayings like "a defendant is innocent until proven guilty" which are fine words but not matched by deeds. Another catch-phrase they are fond of espousing is "it is better that ten guilty people go free, than one innocent person be convicted" and yet again they are fine words not matched by deeds. Tony Blair and other politicians complain about the judicial process letting criminals avoid conviction. It is part of their own patter in the law and order argument. I understand that the number of people sent to trial and acquitted is around 5%, which is less than the estimated 7% wrongly convicted, so the odds are not ten to one, but less than one to one, even if all 5% were actually guilty. Why don't the politicians speak out about the even bigger problem of innocent people wrongly convicted. The same solution, more science in the final decision-making process, would help both problems.

I suggest there is ample evidence here to say that far more reliable results could be expected if the people holding the pivotal role in the scales of justice had a mental capacity to measure and weigh evidence rather than being expert wordsmiths. If judges are expert meaning-smiths too, then wearing woolly-headed attire suggests they have a great sense of humour.

The subsequent ruling has been described by a leading QC (not connected with the case) as a "breathtakingly intellectually dishonest judgment".

The fundamental basis of the Crown's case against me - had been "demonstrably undermined" on the basis of "significant and persuasive fresh evidence". My barristers had been presented with this evidence, which was subsequently mysteriously suppressed at the trial.

"There are all sorts of pointers suggesting something terribly wrong with this verdict."

I rest my case m'luds.

 

Leave a comment:

  •