Introduction to Statistical Thinking of Judges
Copyright 2020 The National Judicial College & Justice Speakers Institute, LLC.
Is Version Of
Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence
Statistics is the science of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. Statisticians develop, test and implement tools to display empirical data, to extract information from those data, and more generally, to draw inferences about populations using samples drawn from populations. Data arise in every discipline, so statistical methods are useful to almost everyone who wishes to use data to answer questions. The civil and criminal justice systems are no exceptions. Questions of interest might include: • What was the time of death of the victim? • Did the suspect’s shoe leave the print at the crime scene? • Are hiring practices in company X discriminatory? • Is the defendant the father of the child? These are just a few examples of the many questions that may arise in court, and for which the judge or a jury must produce an answer. Ideally, the answer is accompanied by some measure of uncertainty to reflect the confidence of the juror or judge on the answer. The idea of uncertainty plays a critical role in statistics. Uncertainty arises when we do not know the outcome of some process, yet decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty. Evidence may suggest the defendant committed the crime, but unless we were there to see the crime in real time, there is always some chance someone else may have be guilty instead
The following chapter was published in Science Bench Book for Judges (2020). Posted with permssion of CSAFE.