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Statistics and the Law

Joseph B. Kadane, editor
Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Sarah Boslaugh
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Statistical analysis is now used into many aspects of legal practice, from jury selection to establishing or challenging evidence, yet most statisticians know as little about legal procedure as the average lawyer knows about statistics. Statistics and the Law was written as a handbook to aid statisticians who may be invited to appear as an Expert Witness on a court case, to help them decide whether or not to accept that role, and, if they do accept. how to do a good job.

The first section explains what an Expert Witness is, what role they play in the legal system, and ethical issues involved in being an Expert Witness. It includes an essay by Michael O. Finkelstein and Bruce Levin on what qualifies a person to be designated an Expert Witness by the court, an essay by Kadane on ethical issues in being an Expert Witness, and several court decisions (Fry v. United States, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, Panitz v. Behrend) in which expert witnesses appeared.

The remainder of Statistics and the Law follows a similar format, as explanatory essays and court decisions are used to introduce the most common types of cases in which statisticians are often called to be Expert Witnesses. Part 2 covers age and racial discrimination in employment and part 3 covers jury discrimination (violations of the principle that the jury selection process should not discriminate against potential jurors on the basis of race, sex, etc.), with special consideration of juries for cases in which the death penalty may be imposed.

Part 4 looks at a variety of legal issues in which statistical expertise is relevant. The first involved whether electronic draw poker requires skill to play: if not, draw poker machines are illegal gambling devices. Other cases considered in this section include that of a student accused of cheating on an examination, the method used to select who would be audited for state sales tax compliance, an accusation of ballot-box tampering, the usefulness of instruments designed to predict whether a violent sexual offender is likely to be a repeat offender, and a case of alleged patent misconduct.

Part 5 looks at the differences between British and American law, then discusses several cases from the United Kingdom. The first involved mothers accused of smothering their children and passing it off as “cot death” (SIDS), which Kadane compares it to the 1968 Collins case in California. In both, certain correlated facts were assumed to be independent, resulting in faulty reasoning which assigned a high degree of improbability to events (multiple crib deaths in the same family, a variety of circumstantial evidence linked to two defendants) which were not really that uncommon once the correlation was taken into account. Finally, Peter Donnelly explains an interactive approach he used to explain Bayesian statistics to a jury, followed by two court decisions which essentially invalidate his approach.

Statistics and the Law is an excellent introduction to legal issues for statisticians and requires no special legal expertise to understand. It would also be a good source of supplemental readings in statistics course, because students are often interested in practical applications of the material they are learning and this text presents both the statistical and legal issues with admirable clarity.

Joseph B. Kadane earned his PhD in Statistics from Stanford University and taught at Yale University and worked at the Center for Naval Analyses before joining the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is presently Leonard J. Savage University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences Emeritus. His previous books include A Probabilistic Analysis of the Sacco and Vanzetti Evidence, Bayesian Methods and Ethics in a Clinical Trial Design, and Rethinking the Foundations of Statistics.

Sarah Boslaugh ( is a Performance Review Analyst for BJC HealthCare and an Adjunct Instructor in the Washington University School of Medicine, both in St. Louis, MO. Her books include An Intermediate Guide to SPSS Programming: Using Syntax for Data Management (Sage, 2004), Secondary Data Sources for Public Health: A Practical Guide (Cambridge, 2007), and Statistics in a Nutshell (O'Reilly, 2008), and she served as Editor-in-Chief for The Encyclopedia of Epidemiology (Sage, 2008).


Introduction: Deciding Whether to be an Expert Witness 6 
Part 1. What's it like to be an Expert Witness? 9 
A: Pioneers 
1. Damned Liars and Expert Witnesses Paul Meier 
2. Statisticians, Econometricians, and Adversary Proceedings Franklin M. Fisher 
B A Very Brief Introduction to U.S. Law, and to the Role of Expert Witnesses 
C Qualifications and Responsibilities of the Expert Witness 33 
1. Epidemiologic Evidence in the Silicone Breast Implant Cases Michael O. Finkelstein and Bruce Levin 
2. Frye v. United States 
3. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals 
4. Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael 
D Ethical Issues in Being an Expert Witness Joseph B. Kadane 
E Panitz v. Behrend 
Part 2. Discrimination 
A: Discrimination in Employment 
1. A Statistical Analysis of Adverse Impact of Employment Decisions Joseph B. Kadane 
2. Hierarchical Models for Employment Decisions Joseph B. Kadane and George G. Woodworth 
B: Driving While Black 
1. State of New Jersey v. Soto 
2. Missing Data in the Forensic Context Joseph B. Kadane and Norma Terrin 
3. Counting Cars in a Legal Case Involving Differential Enforcement Norma Terrin and Joseph B. Kadane 
4. Selected Highlights of the Interim Report of the State Police Review Team Regarding Allegations of Racial Profiling 
C: Racial Steering 
1. Alleged Racial Steering in an Apartment Complex Jason T. Connor and Joseph B. Kadane 
Part 3: Jury Discrimination 
A: Jury Representativeness 
1. Jury Representativeness: A Mandate for Multiple Source Lists David Kairys, Joseph B. Kadane and John P. Lehoczky 
B: Juries in Death Penalty Cases 
1. Juries Hearing Death Penalty Cases: Statistical Analysis of a Legal Procedure Joseph B. Kadane 
2. Lockhart v. McCree 
3. Anatomy of a Jury Challenge Joseph B. Kadane 
4. Azania v. State of Indiana 
Part 4:. Other Adventures 
Other Adventures as an Expert Witness 
A: Electronic Draw Poker 
1. Does Electronic Draw Poker Require Skill to Play? Joseph B. Kadane 
2. Comment John Lehoczky 
3. Rejoinder Joseph B. Kadane 
4. Chance and Skill in Games: Electronic Draw Poker Marc J. Ware and Joseph B. Kadane 
B: Cheating on Examinations 
1. An Allegation of Examination Copying Joseph B. Kadane 
C: Tax Audits 
1. Statistical Sampling in Tax Audits Joseph C. Bright, Jr., Joseph B. Kadane and Daniel S. Nagin 
D: Vote Tampering 
1. Vote Tampering in a District Justice Election in Beaver County, PA Ilaria DiMatteo and Joseph B. Kadane 
E: Civil Incarceration of Violent Sexual Offenders 
1. Expert Testimony Supporting Post-Sentence Civil Incarceration of Violent Sexual Offenders George C. Woodworth and 
Joseph B. Kadane 356 
F: Patent Misconduct 
1. Crossing Lines in a Patent Case Joseph B. Kadane 
Part 5:. English Law 
A: A Very Brief Introduction to English Law 
B: Criminal Convictions and Statistical Independence 
1. Reections on the Cot Death Cases Ray Hill 
2. R. v Sally Clark 
3. The People v. Collins 
C: Presenting Bayesian Analysis to the Jury 
1. Appealing Statistics Peter Donnelly 
2. R. v Adams