Taking the Ratio of Differences Seriously: The Multiple Offender and the Standard of Proof, or, Different Strokes for Serial Folks

21 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2009 Last revised: 18 Jul 2009

Larry Laudan

University of Texas School of Law

Date Written: July 8, 2009

Abstract

This paper analyzes the case for utilizing different standards of proof for trying cases involving, respectively, serial offenders and first-time offenders. It argues that, if we expect the standard in a trial to reflect the costs and benefits of the four possible outcomes at trial, then the empirical data leave no room for doubt that the profiles of all four outcomes -- true and false convictions and true and false acquittals -- are strikingly different for serial offenders than for those without prior convictions.

Moreover, it is shown how the phenomenon of widespread and prolonged recidivism poses insuperable problems for those who subscribe to a retributionist or just deserts theory of crime and punishment.

Keywords: serial felons, standard of proof, recidivism, utilities, just deserts, consequentialism, false convictions, reasonable doubt

Suggested Citation

Laudan, Larry, Taking the Ratio of Differences Seriously: The Multiple Offender and the Standard of Proof, or, Different Strokes for Serial Folks (July 8, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1431616 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1431616

Larry Laudan (Contact Author)

University of Texas School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States

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