On Injustice with Justice Michael P. Donnelly

The Hon. Justice Michael P. Donnelly is the 160th justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio. He’s the recipient of multiple awards, including the Public Service Award from the Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys, and served as chair of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism.

Injustice in the Justice System with Justice Michael P. Donnelly on my Substack


00:03:13Protecting Innocence versus Punishing Guilt
00:28:35Moneyball for Lawyers

Mentioned in this Episode:

My article in The Atlantic (which brought Justice Donnelly and I together) How AI Can Improve the Justice System, can be found here.

The “Blackstone Ratio” comes from William Blackstone’s classic 1769 legal text Commentaries: “the law holds that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape, than that 1 innocent suffer (innocent person be convicted).” It’s meant to counterbalance the desire to punish, and to enshrine the importance of protecting the innocent in the legal system. Those interested in this topic can also read this more recent article about it.

In the same vein, the full quote from Founding Father John Adams is as follows:

We are to look upon it as more beneficial, that many guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should suffer. The reason is, because it’s of more importance to community, that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in the world, that all of them cannot be punished; and many times they happen in such a manner, that it is not of much consequence to the public, whether they are punished or not. But when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, it is immaterial to me, whether I behave well or ill; for virtue itself, is no security. And if such a sentiment as this, should take place in the mind of the subject, there would be an end to all security what so ever.”

For a great survey of the issues of bias and noise in the legal system – one Justice Donnelly and I refer to in the talk – check out the book Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment.


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