At least a dozen Pennsylvania murder convictions may be reversed because Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes included this description of reasonable doubt to instruct her juries:
“Each one of you has someone in your life who’s absolutely precious to you. If you were told by your precious one’s physician that they had a life-threatening condition and that the only known protocol or the best protocol for that condition was an experimental surgery, you’re very likely going to ask for a second opinion. You may even ask for a third opinion. You’re probably going to research the condition, research the protocol. What’s the surgery about? How does it work? You’re going to do everything you can to get as much information as you can. You’re going to call everybody you know in medicine: What do you know? What have you heard? Tell me where to go. But at some point the question will be called. If you go forward, it’s not because you have moved beyond all doubt. There are no guarantees. If you go forward, it is because you have moved beyond all reasonable doubt.”
U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh ordered a new trial for a man convicted following this instruction, and Hughes may have used it in 50 cases.
This is why I am making this an ethics quiz: I have no idea why the instruction is wrong, or confusing. I’ve read McHugh’s opinion, and I still don’t understand what the alleged problem is, unless this judge just doesn’t want to anyone convicted. (He’s an Obama appointment, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with anything, for Chief Justice Roberts tells us so). The decision is here, and this the judge’s reasoning: Continue reading
Here is JP’s Comment of the Day on the post, Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org:
I have largely been silent on the issue this time around. I have seen nothing that contributes to the debate and thought I had nothing to add since the Vegas incident. Mostly, if someone asks, I just refer them to my earlier points on why banning bump stocks and strengthening the Brady Law not will not change anything. However, it seems today my more liberal and conservative friends have been posting quite a bit on the subject and I thought now might be a good time to tackle the issue again by looking at problems on both sides and finding a solution.
First, let’s start with some of the conservative talking points.
- “If someone is determined to hurt people and commit a felony, what’s to say that they won’t break a law to get their hands on a gun to do it?”
This may be true, but it is doesn’t move the dialogue forward and is often used deceptively. It is basically saying that since criminals don’t obey laws, anyway, why have a law? By this logic, we could apply the following to Trump’s desire to build a wall. Walls have not proven to be effective in stopping people wanting to come in, so why build a wall? I don’t understand why conservatives who use this logic don’t apply it elsewhere. Laws are largely there as deterrents. People will not do something because it is against the law regardless of how pointless they see it (I guess this is why I always get stuck behind that Kia doing 65 on the interstate). A psychologist found that most of the population is motivated to do things by one of two factors: sympathy and empathy. or law and order (I think this sums up the current gun debate).
- “Cars kill more people than guns do, yet we don’t ban cars.”
This is a strawman argument, and not even good one. Cars are highly regulated, require an age limit, require a permit of sorts, a registration, require training and safety ((things the left claim to want for guns) and are designed for transportation, not to kill. They can and have been used to kill people, but that is not their primary purpose. In fact, it is a gross misuse of their purpose. The argument falls further apart because while you have a right to a gun, you do not have a right to own a car. The government could decide to remove all cars (for whatever reason); this is an apples to oranges comparison.
Third, Continue reading
Luke G ends this Comment of the Day writing, “Hm, that was longer than I expected, but what’s a good analogy if you can’t follow it through to the end?”
He’s right: it’s an excellent analogy for the value of freedom of speech, and one I don’t recall having encountered before.
Here is his COTD on the post, An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay Advocating Limits On Speech…?
This argument is a clash between two viewpoints. For those of us who value free speech, the structure and procedure are immutable, and the outcomes proceed from there. We see free speech, along with the various other liberties guaranteed in the US, as an intrinsic part of a free and open society. The freedoms themselves have intrinsic value, and the national culture that rests on them is a SIGN that they are good, rather than the REASON they are good. Rich soil is healthy and good, whether it’s growing anything or not- we don’t say good soil is useful because of the beans it grows, we look at the beans as proof that we chose our soil well. The fact that rich soil also allows weeds to spring up is an unfortunate side effect.
For those like the author of the article, their outcome is immutable, and the procedure to get there is malleable depending on their goal. Their worldview defines what outcomes are good or bad- structures that produce bad outcomes are bad structures, and those that produce good outcomes are good structures. These people see cultural cause and effect not like a field but like a factory, where there’s no such thing as a good machine that makes some good and some bad parts… if it produces any bad parts it’s a bad machine that should be upgraded or eliminated at the first opportunity so only the desired product is created. Universal free speech may have been the best machine available, but now there is the perceived power to fix it so only the desirable speech is free and the defective speech is suppressed, so it’s only logical to do so. Continue reading
Both are embarrassments to their parties, their states, and the voters who elected them, however.
First the winner: Ohio State Representative Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, who was discovered over the weekend passed out drunk in his car with a loaded firearm at a McDonald’s drive-thru . Wes was arrested by Butler County sheriff’s deputies, and faces charges of operating a vehicle under the influence and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, because there is no current criminal law covering unbelievably stupid conduct by an elected official.
Retherford was easily re-elected in November in the heavily Republican district, even though voters had to know he was a drunk. He had to defeat a challenger in the GOP primary after another candidate gained the party’s endorsement because Retherford had been criticized for “partying.” “Partying” is a euphemism, in this case, for “has a serious drinking problem and is likely to end up passed out drunk in his car at a McDonald’s drive-thru with a loaded firearm. The Ohio House Speaker even had to order a drinks cart removed from Retherford’s office because it violated House rules. People voted for him anyway. They must be so proud.
Our runner-up is a different brand of fool, but a fool nonetheless: Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat, offered what she termed a “satirical bill” that would fine men for masturbating, allow doctors to refuse to prescribe Viagra and require men to undergo a medically unnecessary rectal exam before any elective vasectomy. Farrar says that she knows her bill will never pass, but says she hopes it will start a conversation about abortion restrictions. Continue reading
Daniel L. Byman, a Brookings Institute researcher, authored an article on the organization’s site that would be fun to dissect in its entirety, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. I also have confidence that any half-objective reader can easily see through it without my assistance. Byman is determined to show that radical Islamic terrorism is nothing for U.S. citizens to get their panties in a bunch over, and like so much coming out of places like Brookings these days, his essay is part brief to absolve President Obama from all criticism. Byman also excels in torturing statistics to make his case, leading to the analogy in question:
“With this picture in mind, the challenges facing the United States [in dealing with terrorism] can be broken down into three issues. The first, of course, is the real risk to American lives and those of U.S. allies. In absolute terms, these are small in the United States and only slightly larger in Europe. The average American is more likely to be shot by an armed toddler than killed by a terrorist.”
I’ve had this quote stalled on a potential post list for a while, but the recent discussions here about argument fallacies revived it.
How many things are wrong with this analogy? Let’s see: Continue reading
Long-time commenter (and blogger) Glenn Logan has authored not one but three COTD-worthy posts of late. I have chosen his commentary on the gross negligence/extremely careless distinction for the honor, but any of them would have been worthy choices. You can find the others in the threads here and here.
Before I get to Glenn, I want to point out that a recent and ridiculous news story illustrated the difficulty of the gross negligence/extreme carelessness distinction perfectly:
A North Florida woman is saying her prayers after running her car into a home — after saying her prayers.
The 28-year-old woman was driving in the tiny town of Mary Esther, located west of Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Deputies from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office say the driver told them she was praying and had her eyes closed before the incident took place.
According to NWFDailyNews.com, authorities say she ran a stop sign, going through an intersection and into the yard of a home. The driver tried to back out, but her car got stuck in sand and dirt around the home. No one was hurt inside the home and the driver was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. She was cited for reckless driving with property damage.
Gross negligence would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes knowing well that it endangered others, and doing it anyway. Extremely careless would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes assuming that no harm would come of it, perhaps because God would be driving the car. “Reckless,” however, may cover both.
Here is Glenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And ‘Extremely Careless’”: Continue reading