Sunday, October 07, 2007


I've said before that law is not about logic or reason but that the application of law is simply an application of rhetoric.

Overcoming Bias has a post about an experiment that showed that people have a tendency to see precedent that matches their politics as more applicable than other precedent.
Under legal precedent, judges are supposed to decide the case in front of them similarly to the way similar past cases have been judged. The October American Journal of Political Science says students are biased to see cases with decisions they liked as more similar to any given new case.

A few years ago I was a grad student in criminal justice. One of the papers I had to write in one of the law classes I had to take was on one of the Penry cases.

Penry was on death row in Texas and was mentally retarded. His case went up and down the courts a few times, resulting in more than one Supreme Court decision before Texas finially got permission to kill him.

Penry was a known character in Livingston, Texas who road his bicycle around town doing yard work for various locals. He was clearly retarted and, like is often the case in small towns, people just kind of took care of him. That is until he was arrested for the murder of a local woman, someone he often did yard work for.

I don't really remember exactly where I found this, it was either in one of the many written court opinions or it might have been in a law review article, but one of the arguements put forth to justifiy accepting the Penry confession was that it was taken by an experienced Texas Ranger rather than an inexperienced local cop.

The experience in doing interragoions that Texas Ranger had was put forth as an arguement for the veracity of the confession given by a retarted man.

That Texas Ranger was the same Ranger who had gotten false confessions for 100's of murders from Henry Lee Lucas.

But he was experienced.

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Blogger Major Bob said...

Finally, I agree with at least part of what you've spewed forth, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Litigation is more an exercise in rhetoric than logic, and lawyers are more concerned with their batting average than with doing justice.

But there, my agreement with you ends. I don't share your bleeding heart concern about "retarted" [sic] convicts. These criminals were smart enough to know how, when and (most importantly) WHY to kill. They always seem to know where and how to get what they want when they want it.

Fail an intelligence test, escape the death penalty...imagine that! There won't be any exploitation of that, now will there?

Well, at least we know you're safe from Old Sparky.

4:32 PM  

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