Re: Justice and Punishment

den Otter (
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 11:29:54 +0100

> From: John K Clark <>

> "den Otter" <> On Mon, 23 Mar 1998 Wrote:
> >If one would be accused of a crime, he could hire as many people to
> >*prove his innocence* as he pleased/could afford.
> Prove his innocence? In the USA about 40,000 murders are committed each year,
> with a liberal interpretation of the word "prove" I might be able to prove I
> didn't commit 75% of them, unfortunately that leaves 10,000 murders I'm
> unable to prove I didn't commit.

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 (or whatever). Only one
(or a couple in extreme cases) of all those thousands of murders is relevant
to the case -- the one that has somehow been linked to you. The rest has
nothing to do with your case, so you don't have to prove anything.

> >Human judges would still have a place in this system as controllers
> >of the computers' verdict (other controllers are the defendant and
> >his defense team or designated others) which is a simple summing up
> >of the known facts with a recommendation (xx% chance that guilty of
> >crime xx resulting in punishment no. xx).
> Just add up the facts and crank out a conclusion, It's a real shame that
> wisdom can't be achieved that easily, we would have had super intelligent
> computers long ago, although they'd be too busy changing the universe to
> concern themselves with human beings and their petty disputes.

AI has nothing to do with it, these justice computers could be just a couple
of simple PCs. Justice *should* be a matter of "adding up the facts", not
"the whim of the day" of some judge. In a fair justice system one can
count on an equal treatment of all cases. The best way to do this is to
minimize the power of the human judges so that they truly speak on
behalf of the _law_, and not themselves. The central justice computer
simply presents all the facts of a particular case in a comprehensive
matter. 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, only streamlined and with curbed human judges to prevent
arbitrary sentencing "because he didn't like his face or whatever".
Juries are elliminated alltogether for the same reason. It's the _facts_
that count, not people's whimsical opinions.

> >there are lie detectors that, although still not too reliable, have
> >an intimidating effect on all but the toughest suspects
> Yes they are intimidating, to the innocent as well as the guilty. I would
> agree to have a lie detector test only if I was guilty and about to be
> convicted. I've read a little about them and I think I'd have a better than
> 50% chance of beating the machine, unless of course the operator didn't like
> me, interpretation the machine's output is largely subjective.

The lie detector would only be used as a tool to add some pressure to the
questioning, and could only serve as supporting evidence, not primary evidence
that can lead to a conviction. It works because only the guilty know the
details of the crime in question (it is not allowed to give details to the media),
and only a guilty person would be nervous if the police brought him in for
questioning (because, believe it or not, this would be a pretty fair judicial
system, with *very* little chance of false convictions due to the many
safeties (monitoring of all legal personel and facilities - tough punishments for
"bad cops" etc.) and hard evidence-based convictions (when in doubt - don't
convict). If you can beat the lie detector that doesn't mean you can go home,
although it can be used as minor supporting evidence to your innocence.

> >hard questioning. This means causing physical/mental nonlethal/not
> >permanently damaging discomfort the suspect in order to extract a
> >detailed confession (no words shall be put in the suspect's mouth,
> >and a confession alone can't convict; details only known to the
> >murderer/thief etc. must be forthcoming).
> You say you didn't murder anybody but I suspect you may have, so like a good
> policeman I bring you in for some hard questioning. After I pull your third
> fingernail off by the roots

This is a *very* cheap shot, obviously your prejudice has prevented you from
thoroughly reading the text above: "This means causing physical/mental
NONlethal/NOT PERMANENTLY DAMAGING discomfort the suspect in order
to extract a confession". No (permanent) physical damage. So where did those
pliers come from? The cop who did that would be immediately removed from his job
and be paying damages to the victim.

> After I pull off all ten of
> your fingernails your claims of being a killer of the vilest sort are even
> more vigorous, but despite my insistence that you do so you still tell me no
> details of the crime not generally known.
> What should a reasonable policeman such as myself do at this point?

[substitute pulling fingernails for something else, like dripping water on
forehead -- doesn't leave a mark and is extremely effective. Tickling the
soles of the feet, funny as it may sound, apparently works pretty well too.]

If after a predetermined amount of time (the docters must see to it that the
questioning isn't overdone) no details are forthcoming the prisoner might
either be set free (and secretly monitored in case he incriminates himself
by re-burying bodies or bragging to friends etc.) or remain in custody for
later questioning. This depends on his physical/mental fitness, seriousness
of the crime etc. 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.

> >crime rates would be down considerably due to decriminalization of
> >victimless crimes like drug abuse, gambling, prostitution etc. so
> >that the police and justice system could focus all their manpower on
> >the real crimes
> Your technique would be particularly effective against real crimes like
> slander, I'll bet close to 100% would retract their statement and apologize
> to the state for any embarrassment caused.

I've made my case against slander earlier, so it should suffice to say that
the slanderer should _prove beyond reasonable doubt_ in a court of law
that the accusations (slander) are true, and not meant to damage another's
reputation for personal gain or out of pure malice. Is this so unreasonable????
Words _can_ hurt people directly, and by leading to actions that hurt them
both mentally and phisically.

> >society as a whole would have to be re-educated (through the usual
> >channels like CNN, tabloids, soaps & movies) to condemn only really
> >damaging behaviour instead of harmless recreation.
> It's amazing how easy it reach a consensus and educate reporters and authors,
> all you need is a sturdy pair of pliers.

A sturdy fine will do the trick too, methinks...