Monday, June 2, 2008

Epistemology in a Courtroom

A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating his guilt, but there was no corpse. In his closing statement, the defense attorney resorted to a trick. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," he said. "I have a surprise for you all - within one minute, the person presumed dead will walk into this courtroom."
He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, stunned, all looked eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the business about the dead man walking in. But you all looked at the door with anticipation. I therefore put it to you that there is reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed, and I must insist that you return with a verdict of 'not guilty.'"
The jury retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, they returned and pronounced a verdict of "guilty."
"But how could you do that?" bellowed the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt. I saw all of you stare at the door."
The jury foreman replied, "Oh, we looked, but your client didn't."

- Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar

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