On the ethical aspects of the testimony of statisticians in court

Gehan, EA; Gehan, E A
October 2002
Statistical Methods in Medical Research;Oct2002, Vol. 11 Issue 5, p363
Academic Journal
journal article
This article considers a legal case presented by the Gore campaign to the Florida Eleventh Circuit Court in December 2000 to contest the election results giving the 25 electoral votes from the State of Florida to George W Bush--basically awarding the presidency to Bush. Consideration is given to the ethical aspects of the testimony of two statisticians, one for Gore and one for Bush, who testified about whether the certified election results rejected a number of legal votes and included a number of illegal votes sufficient to place in doubt the results of the election. It is concluded that neither statistician violated accepted ethical standards of the statistical profession, though the Bush statistician's testimony was at least borderline unethical on certain points. The main problem seems to be with the advocacy principle of the American legal system that leads to the prosecution witnesses testifying narrowly to the truths about the case, whereas the defense witnesses do the same from their viewpoint and also try to belittle the testimony of the prosecution witnesses. All of this makes it difficult to uncover the real truths in the case. The judge's decision was to reject Gore's case and this helped to clear the path to the election of Bush as President of the United States.


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