Andrew Botterell
University of Western Ontario
Imagine the following. You have been asked to critically evaluate the criminal process in your home jurisdiction. In particular, you have been asked to determine whether the criminal process currently in place appropriately balances the need to maximize the chances of getting things right—of acquitting the innocent and convicting the guilty—with the need to minimize the chances of getting things wrong—of acquitting the guilty and convicting the innocent. How would you proceed? What rules of evidence and procedure would you put in place? Would you exclude germane inculpatory evidence that has been obtained in violation of the accused’s constitutional rights? Would you permit spouses to testify against each other, or allow the jury to draw adverse inferences from an accused’s failure to testify on his or her behalf? These are the sorts of epistemological issues addressed by Larry Laudan in his superb Truth, Error, and Criminal Law. The purpose of legal epistemology is to identify legal rules in order to assess them rationally, and, if necessary, to modify or replace them. The more and more widely Truth, Error, and Criminal Law is read, the more likely it is that legal epistemology will attract the attention of lawyers, legal academics, and philosophers, attention that can only contribute in a positive way to rethinking criminal law.
Keywords Evidence law  Criminal law  Legal epistemology
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