Ch9, Gacy v. Welborn, Part 2, Lecture Notes (10.20.09)

Ch9, Gacy v. Welborn, Part 2, Lecture Notes (10.20.09) -...

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Chapter 9, Part 2 Chapter 9: Gacy v. Welborn Lecture, Part 2 Why do legal decision makers sometime refuse to rely on social knowledge / ‘facts’? 1. Belief that the Expert is Biased The Gacy court was distrustful of the social science expert because of his potential for bias: (1) Gacy’s expert opposed capital punishment (2) The expert’s research was conducted under the auspices of an organization devoted to opposing capital litigation The court concluded that the above 2 factors may have influenced the study’s findings no matter how careful the expert sought to be Fear of bias can also lead legislators and administrative agency personnel to reject the opinions of experts 2. Fear of Reversal on Appeal or Ousting at the Next Election Rewriting instructions becomes problematic because judges fear reversal on appeal. Poor rewriting can lose legal accuracy A survey of 62 state and federal judges in Wyoming showed that while 58% felt that jurors were occasionally confused by the instructions, 55% thought that legal accuracy was more important than comprehensibility Legislators, administrative agency personnel, and even state court judges, fear loss of constituent or political support at re-election time, which can lead them to ignore/reject social science facts if the facts lead to a non-popular result 3. Adversarial Arguments Can Trump Scientific Research Lawyers will want an expert that will support their case and be convincing on the witness stand, rather than the most knowledgeable expert Judges listen to both party’s arguments and evidence, and then reach their decisions. Thus, one side’s arguments may convince a judge or jury to ignore the social science evidence Policy makers listen to the adversarial arguments of all interested parties
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