Revisiting 'Dreyfus': A More Complete Account of a Trial by Mathematics

11 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2006

See all articles by David H. Kaye

David H. Kaye

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law; Arizona State University - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law - School of Life Science

Abstract

Legal literature and case law depicts the infamous conviction of Alfred Dreyfus for treason and espionage in 1899 as a prime example of the irresistible power of even grossly fallacious mathematical demonstrations to overwhelm a legal tribunal. This essay shows that Dreyfus is not a case of mathematics run amok, unchecked and uncomprehended. To the contrary, the defects in the mathematical proof were dramatically exposed, and this evidence did not lead Dreyfus's judges to condemn him. This history undercuts the reliance of modern courts and commentators on Dreyfus as an indication or illustration of the alleged dangers of probability evidence in criminal cases.

Keywords: Legal history, Dreyfus, probability, statistics, handwriting, scientific evidence

Suggested Citation

Kaye, David H., Revisiting 'Dreyfus': A More Complete Account of a Trial by Mathematics. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 91, No. 3, pp. 825-835, February 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=944244

David H. Kaye (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

University Park, PA 16802
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/dhk3/index.htm

Arizona State University - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law - School of Life Science ( email )

111 E Taylor St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.personal.psu.edu/dhk3/index.htm

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
267
Abstract Views
2,428
rank
113,473
PlumX Metrics