On Misshapen Stones and Criminal Law's Epistemology
37 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2007 Last revised: 26 Dec 2007
This essay reviews philosopher Larry Laudan's recent book, Truth, Error, and Criminal Law: An Essay in Legal Epistemology (2006). Part I describes, in three sections, the book's structure and arguments. The first section explicates the basic concepts, distinctions, and principles that underlie the book's analysis. The second section discusses the book's analysis of error distribution. The issues in this section include the standard of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt), the burden of proof, and the presumption of innocence. Laudan launches a scathing attack on current understandings of the standard of proof, explains the features an appropriate standard ought to possess, and analyzes different understandings of the presumption of innocence. The third section discusses the book's analysis of error reduction. Laudan argues that many current evidentiary and constitutional rules ought to be eliminated or modified in order to improve the accuracy of the adjudicatory process. Part II offers some reasons to challenge the book's analysis with regard to error reduction. Part III attempts to extend the book's analysis with regard to standards of proof.
Keywords: Evidence, Legal Proof, Criminal Procedure, Epistemology, Burdens of Proof, Standards of Proof, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Presumption of Innocence, Double Jeopardy, Fourth Amendment, Self-Incrimination, Exclusionary Rules
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