Sunday, November 14, 2010

Juror Incentives

A recent chapter also in the book by Steven Landsburg has to do with changing the incentives for jurors. Yes, it is a complete travesty that on occasion innocent people are sent to jail and guilty people go free and consequently there should be changes in the system, however, Landsburg didn't look at the whole equation. While he focused on doing things to change the incentives of jurors to guarantee they maximize their performance (from providing 'mock' trials where the outcome is already determined - i.e. the defendant readily confessed or the defendant has an air-tight alibi - to provide the potential for financial incentives for jurors determining the correct outcome, to creating some sort of 'penalty' for jurors delivering incorrect verdicts or getting rewards for verdicts that are later substantiated by further evidence) these suggestions seemed overwhelmingly impractical (it's unnecessary to go deeper in the proof that these wouldn't work beyond 'judicial gridlock') and, more problematically, only focused on one piece of the problem. Changing incentives for the evidence gathering body and prosecutors (judged based on conviction rates, not 'truth' substantiated) is just as critical and even though the precise 'prescriptions' provided by Landsburg may fall short, they do shed light on the problem and encourage creative solutions to our problems.

Lastly, this weekend I've been falling in love with Yo-Yo Ma; the articulate manner in which he discusses music, the amazing way in which he plays the prelude to Bach's Cello Suite 1 ( and the fact he totally bros it up with James Taylor (

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