Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge

By Diane F. Halpern | Go to book overview

7
Likelihood and Uncertainty: Understanding Probabilities

The jury was facing a difficult decision in the case of People v. Collins, 1968 (cited in Arkes & Hammond, 1986). The robbery victim could not identify his assailant. All he could recall was that the robber was a woman with a blonde pony tail who, after the robbery, rode off in a yellow convertible driven by a Black man with a moustache and a beard. The suspect fit this description, but could the jury be certain "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the woman who was on trial was the robber? She was blonde and often wore her hair in a pony tail. Her codefendant "friend" was a Black man with a moustache, beard, and yellow convertible. If you were the attorney for the defense, you would stress the fact that the victim could not identify this woman as the robber. What strategy would you use if you were the attorney for the prosecution?

The prosecutor produced an expert in probability theory who testified that the probability of these conditions "co-occurring (being blonde plus having a pony tail plus having a Black male friend plus his owning a yellow convertible and so on, when these characteristics are independent) was 1 in 12 million. The expert testified that this combination of characteristics was so unusual that the jury could be certain "beyond a reasonable doubt" that she was the robber.

The jury returned a verdict of "guilty."

PROBABILISTIC NATURE OF THE WORLD

The theory of probabilities is nothing but common sense confirmed by calculation.

-- La Place ( 1749-1827)

As seen in the preceding example, the legal system recognizes that we can never have absolute certainty in legal matters. Instead, we operate with various degrees of uncertainty. Juries are instructed to decide that someone is guilty of a crime when they are certain "beyond a reasonable doubt." This standard was adopted because there is always some small amount of doubt that the accused may be innocent. Jurors are instructed to operate under a different level of doubt when they are deciding about guilt or innocence in a civil case. In civil cases, they are told to deliver a verdict of guilty when the "preponderance of evidence" supports this decision. Thus, jurors are instructed to operate under two different levels of uncertainty when the case before them is either criminal or civil. They need to be more certain when deciding that an accused party is guilty in a criminal case than in a civil case.

-160-

If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Critical Thinking across the Curriculum: A Brief Edition of Thought and Knowledge

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Reset View mode
Search within

Look up

Look up a word

• Dictionary
• Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
• Bookmarks
• Highlights & Notes
• Citations
/ 288

How to highlight and cite specific passages

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.