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The Jama legal narrative part II: A foray into concepts of improbability

The Jama legal narrative part II: A foray into concepts of improbability

Nissan, Ephraim (2001) The Jama legal narrative part II: A foray into concepts of improbability. Information & Communications Technology Law, 10 (1). pp. 39-52. ISSN 1360-0834 (Print), 1469-8404 (Online) (doi:

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In judicial decision making, the doctrine of chances takes explicitly into account the odds. There is more to forensic statistics, as well as various probabilistic approaches, which taken together form the object of an enduring controversy in the scholarship of legal evidence. In this paper, I reconsider the circumstances of the Jama murder and inquiry (dealt with in Part I of this paper: 'The JAMA Model and Narrative Interpretation Patterns'), to illustrate yet another kind of probability or improbability. What is improbable about the Jama story is actually a given, which contributes in terms of dramatic underlining. In literary theory, concepts of narratives being probable or improbable date back from the eighteenth century, when both prescientific and scientific probability were infiltrating several domains, including law. An understanding of such a backdrop throughout the history of ideas is, I claim, necessary for Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers who may be tempted to apply statistical methods to legal evidence. The debate for or against probability (and especially Bayesian probability) in accounts of evidence has been flourishing among legal scholars; nowadays both the Bayesians (e.g. Peter Tillers) and the Bayesio-skeptics (e.g. Ron Allen), among those legal scholars who are involved in the controversy, are willing to give AI research a chance to prove itself and strive towards models of plausibility that would go beyond probability as narrowly meant. This debate within law, in turn, has illustrious precedents: take Voltaire, he was critical of the application of probability even to litigation in civil cases; take Boole, he was a starry-eyed believer in probability applications to judicial decision making. Not unlike Boole, the founding father of computing, nowadays computer scientists approaching the field may happen to do so without full awareness of the pitfalls. Hence, the usefulness of the conceptual landscape I sketch here.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] First published: March 2001. [2] Published online: 14 July 2010.
Uncontrolled Keywords: judicial decision making, improbability narrative interpretation patterns, JAMA Model
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Computing & Mathematical Sciences
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:00

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