Saturday, March 26, 2005

Juries in Japan?

An Associated Press report calls them "juries." Jury Duty 101: New courtroom for citizen participation shown, The Japan Times (online) (March 25, 2005).

A law journal article calls them "lay assessors." Kent Anderson & Mark Nolan, Lay Participation in the Japanese Justice System: A Few Preliminary Thoughts Regarding the Lay Assessor System (saiban-in seido) from Domestic Historical and International Psychological Perspectives, 37 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law L. 935 (October, 2004).

Regardless of the label, Japan has resolved to implement a "mixed court" procedure that will have some of the attributes of the sort of trial by jury that is found here in the U.S. -- and, fairly said, relatively more of the attributes of some European systems that require the participation of both legally-trained judges and lay "assessors," or judges.

Anderson & Nolan write (footnotes omitted):

On May 21, 2004, the Japanese Diet passed an act creating a lay assessor system. ...

The key features of the new law include the following. First, in contested cases the panel will be composed of six lay members and three professional judges. For cases in which the defendant has confessed or does not dispute the charges, the panel will be made up of four lay persons and one professional judge. In both events, the panel will determine the verdict and sentence by a simple majority of all members, although at least one layperson and one judge must consent to the majority. The proceeding will apply to defendants accused of crimes where the maximum penalty is death or indefinite imprisonment with hard labor, or where the victim dies because of an intentional criminal act. ... Finally, the law provides that the procedure will come into force "within five years of its publication" - viz., by May 2009.

The AP report quoted (above) in The Japan Times (online) states:
They tried on the black robes, sat in the high-backed chairs, and asked about everything from what to wear to how long they'd be away from work. It was just the basics for Japan's opening day of Jury Duty 101.

Organized by the Justice Ministry, last week's seminar at a Tokyo courthouse offered the public its first chance to find out about jury trials being introduced as part of the country's most drastic judicial reforms since the war.

At present, courts only rely on panels of three judges.

The new system, expected to start by 2009, would let ordinary citizens be jurors, giving them the right to determine guilt or innocence in serious criminal cases.

Can revised rules of evidence (in Japan) be far behind?

Friday, March 25, 2005

On Quantum Computing

On quantum computing see Jacob West, The Quantum Computer: An Introduction (2000), including the following passage:
Although computers have become more compact and considerably faster in performing their task, the task remains the same: to manipulate and interpret an encoding of binary bits into a useful computational result. A bit is a fundamental unit of information, classically represented as a 0 or 1 in your digital computer. Each classical bit is physically realized through a macroscopic physical system, such as the magnetization on a hard disk or the charge on a capacitor. A document, for example, comprised of n-characters stored on the hard drive of a typical computer is accordingly described by a string of 8n zeros and ones. Herein lies a key difference between your classical computer and a quantum computer. Where a classical computer obeys the well understood laws of classical physics, a quantum computer is a device that harnesses physical phenomenon unique to quantum mechanics (especially quantum interference) to realize a fundamentally new mode of information processing.

In a quantum computer, the fundamental unit of information (called a quantum bit or qubit), is not binary but rather more quaternary in nature. This qubit property arises as a direct consequence of its adherence to the laws of quantum mechanics which differ radically from the laws of classical physics. A qubit can exist not only in a state corresponding to the logical state 0 or 1 as in a classical bit, but also in states corresponding to a blend or superposition of these classical states. In other words, a qubit can exist as a zero, a one, or simultaneously as both 0 and 1, with a numerical coefficient representing the probability for each state.

Megalomania about Evidence and Information

Judging by curricular offerings, law journal publications, endowed chairs, and similar matters, evidence and the law of evidence have relatively low standing in the elite sectors of the legal academic hierarchy in the US.

Evidence workers of the world unite and throw off your chains!
  • I am definitely not referring to your chains of inference or your inference networks.
  • Speak evidential (and uncertain) truth to power!

    Tell certain academic bosses:

    Bit is It!

    Alternatively, tell the benighted but lawful powers-that-be:

    Here is how [John Archibald Wheeler] explains it in one of his essays: every it [every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself] derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely even if in some contexts indirectly from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. He nicely sums this all up in a colorful little expression: It from bit. (Heather Wax, Information technology raises new questions about everything: Information is everything and it is everywhere, Science & Technology News (archives))

    Alternatively, tell those authoritative and authoritarian dummies:

    Stapp states: "...I propose to break away from the cautious stance of the founders of quantum theory, and build a theory of reality by taking seriously what the incredible accuracy of the predictions of the formalism seems to proclaim, namely that nature is best understood as being built around knowings that enjoy the mathematical properties ascribed to them by quantum theory." According to Stapp, reality should be "recognized to be knowledge, rather than substantive matter.... (" Ph. Blanchard & A. JadczykA Way Out of the Quantum Trap, Introduction: Is Quantum Theory the Last Word?
    If such inflammatory proclamations are too dangerous or too venturesome for your tastes, try saying instead:
    The age of uncertainty is upon us -- and information and evidence are crucial players on the new world stage.
    Also tell them that in this age of computer science it is increasingly apparent that although intuition is indispensable for dealing with uncertainty, intuition alone cannot unravel the mysteries of inconclusive evidence and uncertain inference and that thinking carefully about evidence and inference sometimes pays big dividends. (If you don't think so, consult the fuzzy logic that runs your camera.)

    Speaking of fuzzy logic: Was Wheeler wrong to equate the problem (or process) of knowledge with the problem (or process) of making binary choices? If quantum processes are the paradigm of all uncertain knowledge, should we not think of the problem or process of knowledge as the problem or process of making choices among a continuum of possibilities? Isn't part of the allure of quantum computing the fact that quanta can assume not just two states but a multiplicity -- i.e., more than two (2) -- states? Quantum theorists, speak!