“Math on Trial: How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom”

by Walter Olson on April 25, 2013

As grist for expert witness testimony and forensics, mathematics sounds as if it should be more rigorous and amenable to consistent results than other disciplines — psychiatry, say. “However, mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez argue in Math on Trial that in at least 10 instances over the past century, innocent or wrongly accused defendants have been imprisoned or publicly harassed in part due to simple mathematical errors at trial, such as believing two events are independent (when they are not) or underappreciating the power of exponential growth.” [Bharath Parthasarathy, Washington Independent Review of Books]

{ 2 comments }

1 Larry White 04.26.13 at 10:01 am

Math has no place in court rooms…the havens of opinion, demagoguery and lies. Not cynical, factual. Defense attorneys often have no choice in the matter…facts, the truth and math will often put their client away!

Numbers, now you’re talk’n. Schneps and Colmez know the difference but juries often do not.

2 A6 04.27.13 at 2:41 pm

This is not even to touch on statistics as it relates to discrimination law, which I believe I read about in an essay by Thomas Sowell. In effect, our law makes statistical fluctuations illegal–in one direction only, of course.

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