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Vanderbilt University Law School

2009

Probabilities

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Law, Statistics, And The Reference Class Problem, Edward K. Cheng Jan 2009

Law, Statistics, And The Reference Class Problem, Edward K. Cheng

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

Statistical data are powerful, if not crucial, pieces of evidence in the courtroom. Whether one is trying to demonstrate the rarity of a DNA profile, estimate the value of damaged property, or determine the likelihood that a criminal defendant will recidivate, statistics often have an important role to play. Statistics, however, raise a number of serious challenges for the legal system, including concerns that they are difficult to understand, are given too much deference from juries, or are easily manipulated by the parties' experts. In this preview piece, I address one of these challenges, known as the "reference class problem ...