Sunday, June 28, 2009

MarshalPlan 2.8 Now Has a Witness Credibility Stack

MarshalPlan, my evidence marshaling software, now has a stack that provides support for the development of arguments and analyses about the credibility of witnesses. Hence, MarshalPlan has a new moniker: MarshalPlan 2.8.

The new credibility stack and its substacks are relatively primitive. But I believe they may nevertheless be useful for teaching purposes, and a few addled trial lawyers may also find them interesting. (I will add detailed commentary later. Most of the spadework has already been done by David Schum.)

To retrieve the new version of MarshalPlan just follow the instructions given below. Many thanks.

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Years ago David Schum and I developed the notion of an evidence marshaling system. We laid out the underlying theory of this evidence marshaling system in A Theory of Preliminary Fact Investigation. We developed a kind of computer embodiment, or computer-based expression, of our idea of an evidence marshaling system. Eventually we decided to call our system "MarshalPlan".

More than one year ago I released MarshalPlan 2.2. This moniker -- MarshalPlan 2.2 (now 2.8) -- amounts to a bit of self-mockery: MarshalPlan 2.x is not a prototype of a working application suitable for "real-time" use. Far from it! However, MarshalPlan 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, and 2.8 are more than mere scratchings on a page that state in words (text) how a MarshalPlan application might work.

MarshalPlan 2.8 is a software application based on the user-friendly programming language Revolution Enterprise(tm). This application -- MarshalPlan 2.8 -- illustrates -- with images, fields, buttons (links), and so on -- how a computer program to support the marshaling and assessment of evidence in preparation for possible trials and also for the conduct of trials, might work.

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To retrieve MarshalPlan 2.8 click on this link. Download all of the Revolution stacks, including the "Revolution Player," into a single folder on your computer. These stacks all have the suffix "rev". (To make these stacks run properly you need a "Revolution Player." If your computer doesn't use a Windows operating system, go here and download the version of the player (Mac OSX or other) that you need.) Open the Revolution Player and then drag-drop the "Network.rev" icon and all other "rev" stacks onto the "Revolution Player" icon; or run the Revolution Player and, using the Player, open all of the "rev" stacks. You should be in business now: the buttons, or links, in the various stacks should allow you to navigate between the stacks as well as within the stacks.

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I am very pleased to report that MarshalPlan will be available this fall as an application that runs directly on the web, in your browser. This will make it much easier for you (and my Fact Investigation students) to try out the software; you will only need to download a plug-in.

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SOME IMPORTANT CAVEATS: The software application that you will retrieve by clicking on the links found above has serious gaps and limitations, including the following:

1. In the application itself there is little explanation of the theory underlying the evidence marshaling strategies that are embedded in MarshalPlan 2.8.
To get that some of that theory and those explanations (but not all of them) you will have to (i) read the article I mentioned earlier, A Theory of Preliminary Fact Investigation, and (ii) wander about my personal web site. If you want a truly comprehensive theory-laden explanation of MarshalPlan, you will have to invite me to give a leisurely talk (preferably on a tropical island or some other attractive venue).
2. A few buttons and links don't work. When that happens, try other buttons and links. (Otherwise resort to expletives. You have my permission.)

3. One or two important stacks are missing. The most important missing stack is the one that would deal with evidential argument from evidence to factual propositions and with the assessment of the probative value of the evidence -- in particular, an "Evidential Argument & Probative Value" stack. For a discussion of the methods that might be used for this purpose, see Special Issue on Graphic and Visual Representations of Evidence and Inference in Legal Settings, 6 Law, Probability and Risk Nos. 1-4 (Oxford University Press, 2007).

4. MarshalPlan 2.8 is not set up to be linked to a database. This is a most serious deficiency.

But -- in my defense -- I repeat: MarshalPlan 2.8 is NOT a prototype of a working software application, suitable for use in real-time contexts.

MarshalPlan is, instead, an elaborate visual illustration of some of the directions that development of software for marshaling evidence in legal settings should take. (Having said that, I will now add that MarshalPlan is creeping ever closer to being something akin to a genuine software prototype suitable for real-world and real-time use. The biggest bridge will be crossed when I manage to make the forthcoming "web-resident" version of MarshalPlan database-friendly. I must also find a way to standardize many of the fields in which users are invited and expected to add "data" such as dates and names. Give me about six months.)

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The dynamic evidence page

Coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law

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