Thursday, January 15, 2015

Subject: An "Opinion" vs a "Finding"

In a previous thread HERE, R. Rowley provided this interesting argument:
What do you think a jury's verdict is but a collective OPINION on the validity and weight of constellations of facts/evidence (including testimony) touching on a criminal case?!?!?!?!?!?!?
A jury's verdict, of course, is NOT a "collective opinion."  It is a FINDING.  The jury selection process is an attempt to get rid of any potential jurors who might have opinions about the case before they are admitted to the jury. During the trial, the jury first listens to the prosecution present their evidence intended to show that the defendant is guilty of the crime for which he or she is charged, and then the defense presents their arguments intended to show that the evidence presented by the prosecution is not conclusive.  The jury is supposed to listen to both sides of the argument, then they go into a room where they are supposed to discuss the evidence to reach an agreed upon "finding" as to whether the prosecution's case was proven or not proven.  If they cannot unanimously agree one way or the other, then the process starts all over again with a new trial.

Also interestingly, R. Rowley argued this:
What do you think the Henry Fonda character was trying to do in TWELVE ANGRY MEN but change the opinions of those 11 other jurors?!?!?!?
The screenplay for "12 Angry Men" is on-line HERE, and it shows that all the Henry Fonda character ("Juror No. 8") wants to do was what they are supposed to do in the jury room: discuss the case and the evidence.

And, gradually, that is what they start to do.

In concept, all the jurors can still have the opinion that the defendant is guilty and yet agree that the prosecution's case is "not proven."  If all the jurors feel that way, the "finding" or "verdict" must be "Not guilty due to insufficient evidence." In doing so, they do NOT decide that the defendant is "innocent."  They merely decide that there is "reasonable doubt" about his guilt.

The jury deliberation process is intended to settle all misunderstandings.  If a juror explains why he thinks the evidence says the defendant is guilty or not proven guilty, the other jurors will supposedly explain how they view the same evidence differently.  Gradually, though explaining how they view the evidence, they are all supposed to agree on the "correct" way to view the evidence.

In "12 Angry Men," for example, some jurors saw the eye-witness testimony as being conclusive.  But then someone pointed out that the eye witness saw the crime from her bed in the middle of the night.  And then his conversation takes place between the jurors:
FOREMAN: Wait a minute! Did she wear glasses at all? I don't remember.
NO. 11: (excited). Of course she did! The woman wore bifocals. I remember this very clearly. They looked quite strong.
NO. 9: That's right. Bifocals. She never took them off.
NO. 4: She did wear glasses. Funny. I never thought of it.
NO. 8: Listen, she wasn't wearing them in bed. That's for sure. She testified that in the midst of her tossing and turning she rolled over and looked casually out the window. The murder was taking place as she looked out, and the lights went out a split second later. She couldn't have had time to put on her glasses. Now maybe she honestly thought she saw the boy kill his father. I say that she saw only a blur.
NO. 3: How do you know what she saw? Maybe she's far-sighted.
[He looks around. No one answers.]
NO. 3: (loudly). How does he know all these things?
[There is silence.]
NO. 8: Does anyone think there still is not a reasonable doubt?    
Minds were changed by looking at the evidence.  However, no one argued that the defendant was "innocent."  All they did by discussing the evidence was determine that the prosecution's case was not sufficient to eliminate "reasonable doubt."  The final verdict was "Not guilty due to insufficient evidence."

The people who argue that they do not believe Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer refuse to discuss the evidence with people who feel the evidence says Ivins was the killer.  I've been trying to get them to discuss the evidence for years, but to no avail.  They even state that there is "no evidence" to discuss.  It appears that, by denying the very existence of evidence showing Ivins to be guilty, they feel they can never be put in a position of having to discuss the evidence.  And if they don't discuss the evidence, they can never be shown to be wrong in their beliefs.

When R. Rowley is show to be wrong on other matters, like the law or the definition of words, he becomes "hypercorrective" and endlessly argues that his interpretation is the only correct interpretation. 

When DXer is shown to be wrong about other matters, he argues that I am not an official "expert" on the subject, and therefore my view is of no value no matter how much evidence I may have.  When experts disagree with him, he finds something in their background to dismiss their views (right or wrong) as worthless.  He argues that presenting facts and evidence is no different from arguing what is "possible."  Nothing but what DXer believes means anything to him. 


Monday, January 5, 2015

Subject: Facts vs Evidence

 Albert Einstein famously said,

“You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother” [and get her to understand it, too.]

So, I'm going to try to explain the difference between "facts" and "evidence" to see if I understand it myself.

Evidence is presented in court to determine what the facts are, i.e., evidence is presented to let a jury decide if it is "a proven fact" that the defendant committed the crime for which he/she is accused.

Another source expresses this differently:
"Fact is a truth that can be proven. On the other hand evidence is something that is told by someone. It has to be accepted only on belief. There cannot be truth in all evidences.   This is the main difference between facts and evidence."
The copy of "The People's Law Dictionary" in my personal library contains these definitions:
FACT: n.  an actual thing or happening, which must be proved at trial by presentation of evidence and which is evaluated by the finder or fact (a jury in a jury trial, or by the judge if he/she sits without a jury).

EVIDENCE: n.   every type of proof legally presented at trial (allowed by the judge) which is intended to convince the judge and/or jury of alleged facts material to the case.  It can include oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs, and depositions (testimony under oath taken before the trial).  It also includes so-called "circumstantial evidence" which is intended to create belief by showing surrounding circumstances which logically lead to a conclusion of fact.
So, it is totally absurd to say there is "no evidence" showing that Dr. Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001.  In the Amerithrax Investigative Summary report, the Department of Justice presented 92 pages summarizing the evidence against Dr. Ivins.  And they released thousands of pages of supplemental information.

A naysayer could argue that he or she does not accept or believe the evidence, and therefore, as far as they are concerned, it is not a proven fact that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax killer.  But, they cannot logically say there is "no evidence" showing Dr. Ivins was the anthrax killer.

In court the prosecutor would present the evidence that Dr. Ivins had means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime.  The prosecutor would establish "as a fact" that Ivins had means, motive and opportunity.  And the prosecutor would ask the jury to conclude and confirm the fact that Ivins was the anthrax killer.

On the Internet, an Anthrax Truther can present "evidence" showing that his or her favorite suspect was actually the real anthrax killer.

However, as it says above (and below), "There cannot be truth in all evidences.   This is the main difference between facts and evidence."

One Anthrax Truther on this blog presents "evidence" arguing that "linguistics" within the anthrax documents show that his unnamed "suspect" is the anthrax killer.  He indicates that someday he may present "evidence" showing that his "suspect" had means, motive and opportunity.  But, for now, all he is willing to discuss is the "linguistics" in the documents.  As I see it, his linguistics "evidence" is easily challenged and disputed, so there is no "truth" in his "evidence."  It's something only he sees.

Another Anthrax Truther argues that a 2003 news report saying that Adnan el-Shukrijumah had gone to the United States via Mexico is "evidence" that el-Shukrijumah mailed the anthrax letters.  As further "evidence," he cites another news story which said el-Shukrijumah entered the U.S. "some time after September 1, 2001" as evidence that el-Shukrijumah was in New Jersey in September and October of 2001 mailing the anthrax letters.   As I see it, his "evidence" is so vague and lacking in detail that is no way to find any "truth" in his "evidence."  "The truth" is something only he sees in his "evidence."

The Department of Justice's case against Dr. Ivins, on the other hand, provides excellent evidence which shows that Ivins had means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime, plus they can have FBI agents testify that all other likely suspects can be eliminated for lack of means, motive and/or opportunity.

Unlike the two Anthrax Truthers mentioned above, the DOJ can show solid evidence to establish as a fact that Ivins had the means to commit the crime.   The DOJ can present scientists who can explain that they personally created powders identical to the attack powders using the same equipment Ivins had available in his lab.  The DOJ can also show that Ivins had the opportunity to commit the crime.  To establish that as a fact, they can present documents, time logs and testimony showing that Ivins had no alibi for the times when the mailings were done.  And the DOJ can show that Dr. Ivins had motive for committing the crime:  Though his emails and the testimony of witnesses, they can establish as a fact that:  (1) Dr. Ivins’s life’s work appeared destined for failure, absent an unexpected event.  (2) Dr. Ivins was being subjected to increasing public criticism for his work.  (3)  Dr. Ivins was feeling abandoned in his personal life.  A jury could reasonably conclude that Ivins expected the anthrax mailings to make him and his work important again.

The jury would watch and listen to the evidence being presented.  They would then listen and watch the defense present evidence for their side of the argument.  When done, the jury would decide, based upon all the evidence presented to them, if the case against Dr. Ivins was proven or not proven.  If they decided it was proven, it would become a "fact" that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax killer.

Others can disagree with the "fact" that Ivins did it, but their disagreements would be of no value unless and until they could somehow present better evidence showing someone else did it.

That's my explanation of the difference between "facts" and "evidence."

Below are some sources I used in writing the comment above.

Facts and evidence are two words that are often used incorrectly. Even though they are often used interchangeably, they have entirely different meanings. A fact is something that can be proven but evidence is something that someone tells you or objects that can point to the facts. Evidence can be accepted only as a belief that something is a fact and in all cases this is not true.

There are two types of evidence – factual evidence and documented evidence.  In a trial, the court always relies on the documented evidence because facts are needed to prove that it is not true.
However, it is very easy to damage or destroy evidence. Therefore there is not a lot of strength in evidence and it is difficult to authenticate it. In contrast to evidence, a fact can be proven by any means and this is one of the main differences between the two words.

A fact cannot be destroyed or damaged. This is true of scientific facts that have been proven by multiple experiments. No matter how much you change the variables, the conclusion is fact. Facts are based on evidence, but evidence does not necessarily have to be true. It is also considered to be a reality about which a large number of people agree. Facts cannot be disputed.

Information that proves to be helpful in forming a conclusion is termed evidence, but it has to be either true or false. Evidence can be disputed, which is why it is presented in court. The lawyers for both sides present arguments and witnesses to prove or disprove the evidence that has been collected for the case.

It is the evidence that starts an investigation and fact develops from the conclusion of the investigation.

Click HERE for the source.


Facts and Evidence are two legal terms that are used with difference. They are generally understood as one and the same thing to an untrained litigant, but strictly speaking they are different.

Fact is a truth that can be proven. On the other hand evidence is something that is told by someone. It has to be accepted only on belief. There cannot be truth in all evidences. This is the main difference between facts and evidence.

Evidence is generally of two types, namely, documental evidence and factual evidence. The decision of the court is always based on documental evidence. You need to have factual evidence to disprove it.

On the main difference between facts and evidence is that evidence can be easily destroyed. This is because of the fact that evidence lacks strength and cannot be proved authentically. On the other hand a fact can be proved by all means. In fact the proven status has made the fact different from evidence.
On the other hand a fact cannot be destroyed at all for that matter. Scientific facts are all proved and hence can never be destroyed by any means. This is mainly due to the fact that fact is characterized by truth whereas evidence is characterized by falsehood.

Evidence is information helpful in forming judgment or a conclusion. Remember it is only information that can be either true or false. On the other hand a fact is a fundamental reality that has been agreed upon by a substantial strength of people.

Another important difference between facts and evidence is that facts cannot be disputed. On the other hand evidence can be disputed in the court. It all depends on the skill of the lawyer to dispute the evidence produced in the court. Fact is arrived at after investigation or experiment. Evidence begins an investigation.

Click HERE for the source. 



An objective consensus on a fundamental reality that has been agreed upon by a substantial number of people.


information used to establish facts in an investigation

information helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment

one or more reasons for believing that something is or is not true

Fact is that which is accepted by a large number of persons. Evidence is information provided by a few persons for accepting a certain fact.

Some evidences may become disputable at a later date. That which is never disputed becomes a fact.

Click HERE for the source.