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Deadly Dilemmas

Ronald J. Allen

Northwestern University Law School

Larry Laudan

University of Texas School of Law

U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 141

The implications of errors and error rates are examined in this paper. It is demonstrated that the reliance on comparing the number of false acquittals to false convictions at trial (the Blackstone Ratio) as an estimate of how well a criminal justice system is operating is ill-advised in that generates very peculiar results (including at times no results at all), and can lead to morally perverse results. Other estimates of errors at trial (such as comparing the number of false convictions to total convictions) likewise lead to curious results. Focusing on such ratios neglects that social welfare depends on the total outcome of the trial process (false and true acquittals and convictions) and on the relationship between such outcomes, pleas, and crime rates. Some modest suggestions are made concerning ways in which these relationships may be optimized.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

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Date posted: June 24, 2008 ; Last revised: September 14, 2013

Suggested Citation

Allen, Ronald J. and Laudan, Larry, Deadly Dilemmas. U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 141. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1150931 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1150931

Contact Information

Ronald Jay Allen (Contact Author)
Northwestern University Law School ( email )
375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8372 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

Larry Laudan
University of Texas School of Law ( email )
727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

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