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Strictly Speaking

Proof

PROOF

In science, a demonstration of a final, unalterable truth that is theoretically unattainable. Evidence and parsimonious interpretation and Occam’s razor and cutting edge technologies stretch inductively for the Theory of Everything, but as in any process aiming at wisdom by honesty, the quest never ends.

The unavoidable implication for the legal process is fatal, because twelve minds are asked for a finding of “proof beyond reasonable doubt” on the basis of evidence that is, by its nature, incomplete, presented in a process where experts contradict one another, in a forum where the objective is not justice, but the pursuit of public confidence, restoration of the illusion of a safety, advancing the political careers of prosecutors, and the concealment or falsification of evidence by the prosecution is not determined by a search for truth.

If jurors were all skeptical and fulfilled their duties correctly, a guilty verdict would never result. In reasoning people there can always be a reasonable doubt. Seeking to prove otherwise requires a willing suspension of disbelief. One innocent wrongly convicted would establish this verity. Project Innocence has produced many hundreds Read More 
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To Know or Not to Know?

KNOW

Knowledge is the process of the collection of the best available evidence by the most exhaustive means, and of attempting to create the most elegant and parsimonious explanation for it. Suspicion has no place in it.

George W. Bush claimed that he knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Yet had they been there, he would have had evidence aplenty in the form of satellite imagery of nuclear sites like those identified in contemporaneous North Korea of the same year.

The intelligence services routinely compare and exchange imagery in the search of risks. John F. Kennedy showed Soviet missiles in Cuba, and showed also unmistakable Cuban landmarks framing the missiles. Much better images existed of sites in Iraq. They had been monitoring Iraq for signs of the resurrection and development of a nuclear weapons program.

There were none because Iraq had abandoned its program. The French intelligence services knew this, and refused to rubber-stamp the Bush-Cheney fiasco, which was not about Al Qaeda (no convincing evidence), not about WMD (no satellite imagery, no humint), not about freeing the Iraqi people. The invasion was less about “a bad man who tried to kill my Daddy” than it was about oil.

The first priority of American boots on the ground was to secure the Iraqi oil fields. The search of Saddam got second billing. The search of WMD came in a distant third.

The problem of claiming that you know something, and having that be disproved, is that you lose your credibility forever. You have played your best card, and when turned up, it was shown to be a joker.

Knowledge should have informed the decision to invade Iraq. It did not. Secretly (the author knows this from inside sources) members of the Mossad, Israel’s Secret Intelligence Service, met at a neutral location with high ranking members of the U.S. State Department and said, “Don’t invade Iraq. Iraq has no nuclear program. Iran is the real problem.”

Instead ignoring this, Bush went on, attempting to bolster his decision with a “need to protect our good friend and ally, Israel.” Despite managing to stay awake through classes as Yale and Harvard, it isn’t clear that Bush ever knew anything, or could. As the expression goes, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. If so, you certainly can’t make it out of a horses ass. This I know for sure.  Read More 
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Identity

IDENTITY

Identity is the recognition of an object or person as what it is. At best, the claim of identity is supported by a process that provides an accuracy (see “accuracy”) and precision (see “precision”) suitable for the purpose required. Admission to an entertainment event requires only one’s identity as a ticket holder.

Admission to a public zoo requires only recognition as the only species not behind bars. Admission to a penal institution requires identity as guilty beyond reasonable doubt, conviction by a jury of your peers and a sentence imposed by the court. Prisons are human zoos, yet in some unfairness to other species, none are admitted to view the captive animals.

The strictures of recognition become increasingly severe as the advantages of access grow, and often as the peril of the admitting person or institution increase. Hence in personal access, matters of retinal scans and minute details like x-rays to reveal shrapnel remaining from combat action increase confidence. But if the matter of confirming identity is put in the hands of software recognition program, such programs, as others, can be hacked, sometimes easily. Identity theft (more accurately misrepresentation) is the largest growing crime in the United States.

Only identical twins can claim that their identity is not unique, and DNA evidence (if not contaminated or mishandled, or mislabeled or misreported) implicates only one of two identical twins. In these cases, the chances of error (assuming rigorous procedures have been followed) is not one in eight billion, but one in two. As always, context counts.

Parts of your identity can be stolen without other parts being lost. If you are a bone marrow donor, the donated marrow replaces the sick patients, and your blood type then becomes his or hers. If it changes the recipient’s blood type during the procedure, then typing blood at the crime will point away from a criminal whose blood type has been changed. These sorts of scientific torpedoes get even more devastating when with extremely rare conditions like chimeras. So as much as everyone loves a sure thing, in reality there is never such a thing. Ergo one can never reach a certainty beyond a reasonable doubt. And reasonable doubt can only emerge when all of the facts and evidence and interpretive assumptions are presented. Read More 
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Doubt(beyond a reasonable)

DOUBT (beyond a reasonable)

A century ago, most people believed in a creator, or God, beyond a reasonable doubt. But this conviction wasn’t actually reached by reason; it was an article of faith. If an argument for a creator existed, it was always presented backwards, conclusion first. Like this. The universe was created, therefore there must be a creator.

Currently, the view of reality has expanded to put the entire previously observed universe (a century ago believed to be limited to our Milky Way), at only four percent of our cosmic cocoon. Most of the rest of the universe is dark energy, supported indirectly by several strings of evidence, and dark matter, established by astronomer Vera Rubin as the glue essential to holding galaxies together. The traditional superstition of God has been displaced by the experimental detection of the Higgs Boson, or God particle, from which all else descends.

The evidence and theories debated by modern physics challenge the notion that any permanently valid conclusion can be reached by consideration of evidence, because the hermeneutic framework always affects the way that evidence is interpreted, and ushered toward one conclusion or another. Facts are only facts. They can be enlisted and marched in any army of argument according to the preferences and cleverness of the claimant.

A conclusion that any jury reaches beyond a reasonable doubt is impossible, because the very process of reasoning creates doubt, especially if made with the awareness that to the prosecution a trial is merely a game to advance careers and political ambitions, and that the police will counterfeit or conceal evidence owing to the conviction that they have got the right doer, and that the trial is merely a formality.

The inescapable fact is that with so many convictions prejudiced by the accused’s color, or relation to the victim, or simple pure suspicion that scuttles any true, extensive investigation, then if rigorously applied, the standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt will always exist unless the accused is linked to the victim by fairly gathered, vigilantly protected, untampered with evidence. Unluckily, we are a long way from reaching a collection of skeptics in a deliberating jury. The community always wants to feel safer, the jurors always seek “justice” or “the right thing for the family.” Unfortunately, they do not understand that if it were they, rather than the accused, being tried on so flimsy a case, they would scream to the heavens for acquittal. Unluckily, when the jury door shuts, the heavens are often left standing silently outside.

Off the record, most experienced attorneys will inform you that police departments never conduct a true investigation, one that seeks the perpetrator “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Most often they drag in the usual suspects, conjure an imagined motive, invoke the fear and suspicion of the jurors and attempt to make a case that may seems likely, but generates ample doubt. Often cops go headhunting, wanting a big scalp to hang on their belts. A classic case of this would be the Chandra Levy murder, where the District of Columbia Police aimed straight at her boss, sometime lover and Congressman, Gary Condit. The accusation had all the hallmarks of a badly written National Enquirer headline and collapsed for lack of evidence. While pursuing their instincts, no other line of investigation or suspect was pursued. This is typical, and raises – beyond a reasonable doubt – serious questions about how our judicial system operates.  Read More 
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