Liberal Arts Blog — What Does “Swift and Certain” Mean?

Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, and Numbers Day

Today’s Topic — What does “swift and certain” mean? Can you quantify it? How have definitions changed?

In the 18th century a judge in London would routinely preside over 15–20 felony trials per day. “Justice delayed is justice denied” is an old saying with more than a ring of truth. So you may have noticed that these days trials last longer than they did in London a few hundred years ago. You may have noticed too that public defenders can be burdened with 400 cases per year or perhaps 50 criminal trials within a week. How do you balance the need for speed against the need for thoroughness and care? Today a few notes on how and why the math of justice has changed. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

WHY 18TH CENTURY TRIALS IN LONDON WERE SO MUCH SPEEDIER THAN THEY ARE IN THE US TODAY

1. No lawyers. The victim was the prosecutor.

2. No evidence rules. These are designed to make sure the juries are not presented with evidence that is not tainted in some way or is more “prejudicial” than probative.

3. No 5th amendment protecting defendant against self-incrimination.

WHY PUBLIC DEFENDERS ARE SO OVER-BURDENED

1. Funding.

2. The public has no interest in paying taxes to protect the bad guys.

3. Strong preference for funding for getting the bad guys off the streets.

WHAT’S THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET ABOUT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM?

1. Few cases go to trial. The justice is not really about judges and juries like in the movies and TV shows or in civics courses.

2. The big players are now the prosecutors and defense attorneys. And the game is plea bargaining which settles 95% of criminal cases and 98% of civil cases.

3. Why? Everybody knows the accused is probably guilty. Trials are a waste of time. Let’s just settle this, ok?

Source: Joseph Hoffmann, “Criminal Law and Procedure,” one of four chapters in Law School for Everyone (a Teaching Company course). Highly recommended.

Note: never, ever, pay full price for a Teaching Company course. They go on sale periodically for discounts of 80% or more. Also available in libraries.

Joseph L. Hoffmann

https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/law-school-for-everyone.html

YOUR TURN

So what are your personal favorite magic numbers? What do they stand for? Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.

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Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.