Clamat wrote: “The law has never aimed to establish the truth – that’s the province of scientists and philosophers.”
I responded directly as follows: “That’s a ridiculous statement!” And if that seemed rather strong I then went on to explain:
“Of course the legal system is designed to get at the truth. The aim is that guilty persons be punished, not innocent ones!”
I have much more to say to Clamat. But I’m going to focus those comments on one particular statement he makes. After I said juries seek to arrive at the truth through court proceedings he replied:
“So we’ve got a whole new area of epistemology, apparently: Knowledge by jury verdict. No, they really can’t know it.” (emphasis added)
Did you catch that? Clamat claims that juries (or judges for that matter) cannot come to have knowledge of guilt or innocence through court proceedings. Now I’m going to explain why that’s all wrong.
First a scenario.
You arrive home one day to find the rear end of your prized MG convertible crumpled. “What happened?” you yowl. At that moment your neighbor, a retired judge named Oliver, comes running over. “I saw the whole thing!” he says. “That punk kid Gerald who lives down the street hit your car this morning and then drove home. I saw the whole thing. And look at your bumper.”
You look at the crumpled chrome bumper and see bright red paint, the exact same color as Gerald’s aging IROC Camaro. “Idiot!” you say under your breath. With that you walk down the street and find the IROC parked on the front lawn of Gerald’s parents’ house with the left fender cracked and with paint missing.
Based on this evidence of Oliver’s eyewitness testimony, the paint on the bumper and the new damage to Gerald’s IROC Camaro, could you know that Gerald hit your car? The standard response of most epistemologists would be a resounding yes, and I suggest we go along with that.
So in day to day life we can know that Gerald hit your car. Why then would Clamat believe that when it comes to court the same evidence presented even more carefully and rigorously would not yield knowledge of Gerald’s guilt?
Perhaps he believes it because the civil proceedings are not concerned with Gerald’s guilt per se but rather with whether the preponderance of the evidence supports Gerald’s guilt. In other words, we have two different truth claims:
(1) Gerald hit your car.
(2) The preponderance of the evidence supports the claim that Gerald hit your car.
And the court proceedings are only concerned with (2). They are not concerned with (1).
But that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the same evidence that can yield knowledge of (2) can also yield knowledge of (1). Obviously it can, and ideally it should. So Clamat’s attempt to separate truth from the law must be rejected.