Evidence and Justice

From Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth’s A Justice Primer:

Guilt needs to be established prior to the verdict being delivered. Careful attention to the evidence must be given before a sentenced is made. Judges make judgments, but just judges always regard the law first, and the rules of evidence are a part of the law. It is all too common for people to rush to judgment when they are in no position to know or evaluate all the evidence. A personal hunch in not capable of delivering justice and it is fully capable of doing an injustice. 

Newspaper reports, Internet blather and other types of rumor mills are not reliable evidence. It is possible to be in possession of two percent of the evidence but to assume that you are in possession of it all. For genuine justice to be rendered, all the available evidence, the right kind of evidence, the proper interpretation of the evidence and wise judges are all necessary. Our brains want to fill in missing information and will frequently do so rather than acknowledge that we simply do not  know. We often assume actions, motives, and reasons not in evidence. Reading between the lines is dangerous and prone to produce injustice.

Moreover, repeating bad evidence is not evidence. The fact that two people are “convinced” that someone is guilty does not make that person guilty, and his is no guiltier if ten people are “convinced” and post it on Facebook, and get twenty-seven “likes.” Quantity cannot substitute for quality. To assert that a certain person, organization or company is “guilty” or “evil” does not make it so. Neither does the repetition of such statements prove the guilt of the accused. However, it might well indict the repeater of unsubstantiated reports for false witness.