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The US Judicial - Jury System ? Good BAD Indifferent?
Posted: 18 July 2006 02:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Science makes a claim to objectivity by deferring ultimate authority on it’s conclusions to observation and logic systems (math and reason).

If we accept one or two (subjectively arrived at) foundational axioms for morality such as:
1) all individuals are born equal with equal rights and authorities and
2) all individuals have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

, then I think it is possible to build up from there a logically consistent framework for morality that defers to logical consitency as it’s authority - and in so doing stake a reasonable claim to moral objectivity.

Applying moral judgements objectively, is yet another matter. I think it’s theoretically possible, but in practice very difficult.

I would like to see the day when legislation is written in the form of a computer program, and judges and juries are replaced with legal computers . . .  enter the facts and circumstances of the case, and recieve the verdict.

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Posted: 16 July 2006 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Science makes a claim to objectivity by deferring ultimate authority on it’s conclusions to observation and logic systems (math and reason).

If we accept one or two (subjectively arrived at) foundational axioms for morality such as:
1) all individuals are born equal with equal rights and authorities and
2) all individuals have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

, then I think it is possible to build up from there a logically consistent framework for morality that defers to logical consitency as it’s authority - and in so doing stake a reasonable claim to moral objectivity.

Applying moral judgements objectively, is yet another matter. I think it’s theoretically possible, but in practice very difficult.

I would like to see the day when legislation is written in the form of a computer program, and judges and juries are replaced with legal computers . . .  enter the facts and circumstances of the case, and recieve the verdict.

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Posted: 16 July 2006 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Wow, Sorry Riley, here we disagree. Put succinctly the problem with that idea is the same as the problem with the law of Hitler’s Germany and the problem with the Inquisition. If the dominionists were in charge the computers would be very busy executing persons who were homosexual.

The question is who programs the computers? Who tells the computer the facts of the case? I can produce a good argument for either side in all close cases. Your system works only in the most obvious situations and even then there is concern. That’s because of bias in the officials who collect the facts. And for lots of other reason like identification of the perpetrator.

We might be able to agree on the major crimes, major immorality but what we see as moral in many cases will be seen as immoral by others. It’s way too large and complex a society to attempt to a single overall moral code.

Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
Tavernier, FL
http://secularhumanism.meetup.com/1/
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 16 July 2006 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hey Jim!

Government is an attempt through law to create a single overall moral code. Making a best attempt, while imperfect, is better than the alternative, IMHO.

I’m very aware of problems with my law-computer idea. . . but aren’t the problems you bring up the same problems we have now? Only worse in our current state since every time a judge or a jury makes a decision, we question their motives or intelligence. Lawyers try to manipulate juries, influence the selection of juries, move to have their case heard by a judge they believe will be more favorable, etc. It’s a mess.

A computer would always be consistent. It wouldn’t matter if the plantif or defendent were the president or a pauper - same relevent facts would equal the same outcome.

Who programs the computers? Same elected people who write the laws - except instead of being lawyers, they’d be programmers. Laws are a system of rules to be followed. . . that’s what in essence a comuter program is. If a law programmer wrote a bad law program, unlike the situation now, that law programmer would be as equally subject to the outcome as everyone else.

Who tells the computer the facts of the case? Same people that are now telling th judge and jury the facts of the case. Lawyers tell the computers the facts in the case, and a judge could mediate to make sure the facts were reasonable . . . like they do now.

Any tool that increases rational decision-making and reduces the opportunity for unequal application of the law is an improvement. Not the ultimate solution, but a step in the right direction.

But, our software isn’t good enough yet.

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Posted: 16 July 2006 08:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Who tells the computer the facts of the case? Same people that are now telling th judge and jury the facts of the case. Lawyers tell the computers the facts in the case, and a judge could mediate to make sure the facts were reasonable . . . like they do now.

As of now, lawyers on each side can twist the facts (or lie, if you prefer) on behalf of their clients, and their skill is to do so “reasonably.”  But “reasonable” doesn’t equate to “factual.”  No matter how good the computer program, it’s hard to see how it could decide what is true based on comparison of two sets of lies.

And if you found a better way to get the facts to the jury, or a judge, than through an adversarial process (and there ARE better ways), you may not feel the need to turn to a computer at all.

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Posted: 16 July 2006 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“royniles”]
As of now, lawyers on each side can twist the facts (or lie, if you prefer) on behalf of their clients, and their skill is to do so “reasonably.”  But “reasonable” doesn’t equate to “factual.”  No matter how good the computer program, it’s hard to see how it could decide what is true based on comparison of two sets of lies.

At some time in the future, maybe in a decade or two, we will have developed an artificial intelligence sufficiently capable of identifying logical fallacies in arguments - perhaps at first lawyers would have to make arguments in a format that the computer could analyze logically. Other facts would have to pass fact-checking process much like thy do in courts today. Entering the facts into the law-program to return a judgement and sentencing, would be the most powerful part.  Eliminate the influence of mysticism, racism, and other scientific illiteracy in judges and juries.

It’s admittedly a bit far fetched for the time being.

I can’t think of any major improvements to getting the facts out, than using the adversarial process. What are the better ways?

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Posted: 16 July 2006 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The inquisitorial systems used in a number of other countries (France being one, although not the best example) are much better at getting the facts before the court than ours.  The adminstrative law procedures that are used in some of our courts, although seldom for criminal cases, are much better at bringing out relevant evidence as well. 

There isn’t much hope that our system will be changed in any significant way any time soon, however.  One reason for this might be that from the point of view of those who have the power to fix the system, it ain’t broke yet

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Roy Niles, Kailua, Hawaii

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Posted: 16 July 2006 10:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The system has major defects but they are all connected with human management of it’s machinery. The constitution as it has been interpreted over time by the courts is a pretty good protector of human rights.

The system work well for the rich.

It is broken when it comes to poor men and women. But it has improved immensely over what it was before the states were forced to provide defenses for indigent citizens.

I am very close to this. My wife is the felony secretary for a substantial public defender in the south. The system is working well here but the male charged with a major crime is not going to get the same defense he’d get if he had the money to hire Roy Black. Depending on his crime he might get a better one or a worse one but it will be different.

Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 16 July 2006 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’ve worked one way or the other in the same system for over 40 years.
The improvements seem to me like patching holes in a dike when you really need a new type of dike.

When this dike (or levee) leaks, the rich, who have commandeered the high ground, do not get flooded.  The poor do.  To the poor, it’s broke - to the rich, it aint.

You mentioned hiring Roy Black.  That illustrates the problem in a nutshell.
Without slandering Black in particular, the name is a symbol for someone who can manipulate the system, rather than someone who will ensure that justice is served.  The vulnerability to such manipulation is a weakness more peculiar to the adversarial system than to the others I referred to.

This discussion began in reference to setting standards for moral behavior.  Moral behavior is another term for just behavior.  Justice, as the arbiter of such behavior, is not served by the type of manipulation that we have allowed to run rampant by observing a trial as a contest rather than a cooperative effort to get at the truth.

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Posted: 17 July 2006 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Exactly, I fully agree with the last statement. any ideas on how to make it work for everyone equally?

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Jimmie Keyes
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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 17 July 2006 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ah, that’s the hard part!  But encouraging the alternate dispute resolution
movement is one way.  If it catches on with civil disputes, it may then be recognized as a way to handle some criminal matters as well.  In fact, and if I’m not mistaken, there are drug courts in some areas that use similar procedures.

Other ideas would be to encourage the health courts movement, and tort reform - but you can see from the legal community reactions to these movements alone that it will be a long and hard road to any substantial improvements. 

You could look into movements that advocate professional juries - that would be a huge improvement.

And you could start a topic here on this subject!

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Posted: 18 July 2006 02:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Per the suggestion this topic has been moved here from the Philosophy category where it was part of a discussion of Morality.
Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 18 July 2006 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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As a practical example of how the justice system works, or does not work, it might be worthwhile to follow the developing case in New Orleans where a doctor and two nurses are accused of murdering critically ill patients who allegedly were on the “do not resuscitate” list and also were stranded as a result of Katrina and could not have been evacuated along with other patients.

So it would appear we have medical personnel who were between a rock and a hard place, and had more to lose by preventing further suffering and putting these patients to death than by leaving them to the elements where they would die in due course by drowning or worse.

Yet they chose to alleviate the suffering of these people, or to follow instructions to do so.  And I presume they knew that they would have to lie about what they did to avoid being sued or worse for doing something that nature would have soon done anyway.  So already the rules of the system may have reached down and forced them to compromise their ethics in order to act in what society might otherwise conclude met the highest standards of courage and concern for others.

Then when this activity came to light, the system seems to have had no recourse except to subject these people to a criminal trial, where in theory they are presumed innocent (which is supposed to be the saving grace of our system) but in practice are tried under the legal fiction that in subjecting them to the trial, the government is doing so for their own good - even though the price of maintaining their innocent stance is to be vilified in the press, be forced (I assume) to make bail, and to spend ruinous amounts of money to hire the best manipulator they can find and/or afford.

What a price to pay for being presumed innocent when if otherwise allowed to wait at home, as if they were in reality innocent, and required to do nothing to prove that the charges were unprovable, they would, under our system, be very likely “proven” guilty by default.

And of course during the trial, the presumption of innocence will be belied by the prosecution’s allegations, which in effect will be telling the jury or even the judge, that the State presumes these people are guilty and you all will be derelict in doing your duty if you seriously consider otherwise.

Then if a jury is involved, they likely won’t be able to ask questions, such as why they can’t have a say in which proposed evidence is subject to suppression, which witnesses can express an opinion and which cannot, what will the penalties be for whatever degree of guilt is decided, and why is there no middle ground to be reached between punishment or no punishment.

Much more could be predicted as to the deficiencies in our system that this case can be expected to illustrate, but I’ve probably gone too far out on the limb already.

However, it’s my hope that others will join in and use this developing story to stimulate further discussion of this newest forum topic.

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Roy Niles, Kailua, Hawaii

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Posted: 19 July 2006 11:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Roy, stories like that one are horrifying and they sicken me. 

I’ve had several conversations lately with a friend of mine who is a prosecutor in the Madison DA’s office (he’s also been a participant in the “Innocence Project” at UW-Law—- ever heard the story of Chris Ochoa and Richard Danziger? its a stomach turner).

Two things he’s related to me that I find interesting:

1) 98% of all cases never go to court (they are pleaded out).

2) The prosecutors discretion on who to play “hard-ball” with, and who to let off with a"wrist-slap”, is complete.

As bad as the problem clearly is with the system being overly harsh on those undeserving of such harshness, this is from my impression a smaller portion of a bigger core problem. That is, I get the impression that prosecuters as a matter of routine, let influential criminals off the hook, especially when the defendent is a corporation where punative damages (I understand) are not even allowed - and it is excessively difficult to pierce the corporate veil to indict the corporate officers.

As a matter of practical self-interest, if the law-makers and the law-executors are made equally subject to the law as the rest of us, then inevitably the nature and appilcation of those laws will be ‘reasonable’.

And so if the discretion of the prosecutor to plead-out cases were reduced or eliminated, I think much of the problems we see would be resolved.

Is that reasonable to assume? or am I off the mark?


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Posted: 19 July 2006 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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If the discretion of the prosecutor to plead-out cases were reduced or eliminated, it would seem to me that it would exacerbate the problem that caused the power of discretion to be given prosecutors to begin with.

That power acts like a safety valve to be used to relieve the pressure of events that might otherwise cause the cumbersome edifice that has been cobbled together over time to self-destruct.  In a sense, this edifice has had no real archiect that understood the relationship between form and function, and there was nothing in the plans that detailed the proper use of that discretion and the consequences for its misuse.

But more to the point, the abuse of that discretion has been such that it should be subject to judicial review, because it’s really not “discretion” if the power is actually used as an abuse of discretion.  And I don’t mean some ‘rubber stamp” grand jury review, etc.

Still, all of this to me seems to be patchwork, and the building needs to be renovated from the ground up.  Easier said than done, of course.

And in the case in point, a further problem may be that the type of discretion that the circumstances seem to have dictated may not really have been within this prosecutor’s power to apply - although from his demeanor he didn’t appear too upset about what he was doing.

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Posted: 19 July 2006 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Our United States judicial system is based upon the principle that in a democracy the laws made by those elected to the legislature are essentially born of the will of the people. The criminal laws because of this theory are essentially just.

And of course in the case of criminal laws that are thought to be seen by the public as laws punishing evil immoral acts of bad persons. (Before a single person is charged under them) they are political events. Politicians vie with one another to see who can invent the toughest law against the use of drugs because they see it to be a vote getter. There is no effort to study the problem - to address it scientifically, to truly solve the social problem - The political solution is to clap the buggers in jail for longer and longer periods of time.

My disgust with how this system works can easily be seen here and the
Scott Andringa tale will be put up next.

Later
Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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