Re: Justice and Punishment

den Otter (
Sun, 29 Mar 1998 01:20:38 +0100

> From: John K Clark <>

> "den Otter" <> On Tue, 24 Mar 1998 Wrote:
> >Proving your innocence is done by, for example, demonstrating that
> >you weren't at the scene of the crime at the time of the murder
> I can't prove I wasn't at the scene of most murders, neither can you.

You can if you document your life (mini audio/video) and/or others, like
the government are doing it for you. Monitoring most streets and other
public places is completely feasible even with today's technology. Apart
from that, forensics have gotten pretty good too.

> >Only one (or a couple in extreme cases) of all those thousands of
> >murders is relevant to the case [...] these justice computers could
> >be just a couple of simple PCs.
> You seem to think that what's relevant and what is not is a simple matter to
> determine, it's not, not in criminal investigation and not in scientific
> research. In the real world when you're confronted with a puzzle you always
> have far more information than you can deal with, and much of it is
> contradictory.

Certainly not all cases are *that* difficult. Taped crimes are pretty
and the criminals hardly ever bother to try to debunk recorded (video etc.)
evidence, _when they're guilty_ After all, what is there left to say. More
surveillance means more recorded crimes (after all, most criminals aren't too
bright) which means more clearcut cases that can be handled by the central
justice computer (the purpose of which is to maintain consequence in judicial
matters, elliminating whimsical decisions where possible). It may not be the
'magic bullet', but it sure would be an improvement over the present situation,
and that's what counts. Really tough cases could be left to (teams of) human
judges ('till the advent of AI), who would only have to take care of a fraction of
cases due to automatization. Precedent would be binding to assure maximal
consequence of justice. Systems that work on this basis automatically get
better with time. Judges would be required to take "common sense" tests as
part of their training.

> >The central justice computer simply
> There is nothing simple about finding the truth, it's hard work and it takes
> a brain, that's what the organ is for.

Recorded cases are almost always simple, and they will become the majority
of cases as surveillance becomes omnipresent. As a bonus, the crimes that
threaten society most like street violence will be hit the hardest by increased

> >presents all the facts of a particular case in a comprehensive
> >matter.
> It's a matter of opinion, some will say something is a fact, others will say
> it's a fancy. And the facts are never comprehensive, the holes must be filled
> in with conjecture. There is a name for this procedure, judgment, and it
> takes intelligence that PC's don't have yet.

If the tape shows some guys beating an old lady and taking her wallet then there
is little left to the imagination. Many cases are in fact quite simple, because
many offenders are dumb. Miss Marple-esque murder mysteries aren't exactly
the rule, you know.

> >If the points of the prosecution haven't been refuted, then the
> >conclusion is simple: guilty. It's basically the same system we use
> >today,
> Not where I live, and not where I want to live.

If the prosecution has made a strong case, you will be convicted in *any*
country. Where the burden of proof exactly lies isn't that important, what
counts is who can produce conclusive evidence. When in doubt, don't
convict (but keep a possibility open for a retrial). This seems like a pretty
secure system.

> >only a guilty person would be nervous if the police brought him in
> >for questioning [...] like dripping water on forehead -- doesn't
> >leave a mark and is extremely effective. [...] There is a clear
> >limit to this process (say a week or two). If there still are no
> >results the suspect is released (and monitored) while the police
> >re-evaluate the case.
> Guilty or innocent it makes no difference, when your police knock on my door
> in the middle of the night I would feel utter terror. I would also feel
> hopeless despair, because I'd know that my nightmare is only beginning and
> will never end this side of the grave. If I'm lucky I will undergo two weeks
> of Chinese water torture and then be released, for a while. My ordeal could be
> repeated many times and at any time.

No, obviously there would have to be strict rules regarding the further
questioning of suspects and re-opening the trial. Cases like O.J. Simpson,
where an obvious murderer can never be brought to justice because
the judicial system fucked up the first time around must be prevented
however. This means that even if someone has initially been found innocent,
he *can* be tried for the same crime at a later date if new evidence comes

> If I'm unlucky I will be painfully and
> horribly tortured by skilled professionals until death finally sets me free.

No such luck. You may temporarily pass out at best ;-) Unless of course
you mean the torture that is applied to especially cruel/multiple murderers,
which they duly deserve.

> Do you really find it hard to understand why anybody and everybody would be
> more than nervous when police bring them in?

That depends on the public's trust in the system, the PR of the police etc. If that
is good, people won't be too scared when politely asked to come to down to the
station. Most of the investigation has been done in secret anyway, so that the
suspect isn't aware that the police are on to him and may incriminate himself
further by his actions. At the stage that someone is requested to appear at a
hearing it must already be 99% (so to speak) sure that he's guilty.

> >if you can beat the lie detector that doesn't mean you can go home
> No kidding. After seeing the inside of one of your torture chambers few would
> ever go home again.

How come? Torture is done with "surgical precision", so that no-one dies.

> >although it can be used as minor supporting evidence to your
> >innocence.
> And major supporting evidence of my guilt if I fail no doubt.


> >If the servants of justice really thought you were innocent they
> >wouldn't have arrested you in the first place, now would they?
> Your faith in the intelligence and integrity of polatitions, the judges
> they appoint, and other such servants of justice is touching but not entirely
> realistic.

This was meant as a bit of sarcasm, regarding the "innocent until proven
guilty" idea. In reality, you are already more or less convicted (by everyone)
if the police pick you up. And it must be said that in many cases this
suspicion is justified.

> >the slanderer should _prove beyond reasonable doubt_ in a court of
> >law that the accusations (slander) are true
> The court can issue any decision it likes on the truth or falsehood of a
> book and it would not change my opinion of it in the slightest. The slanderer
> should prove beyond reasonable doubt to the reader (not to a court) that his
> statements are true, if he fails the slanderer is simply Ignored.

Slandering isn't limited to books, and since many people just loooooove gossip
and don't care too much about the truth, one has to prevent assholes from
unduly ruining someone's reputation. Slandering is like trowing someone to
the wild beasts (the dumb malicious people), and should be minimized in any
decent society. After all, security and stability are among the main reasons we
have societies in the first place.

> >Words _can_ hurt people directly
> Then hurt them back the same way, with words.

The damage has been done by then, and is often irreversible. You might take
the slanderer down with you, but that won't undo the damage to your reputation.
It's better to prevent it alltogether, by law.