Not Guilty does NOT Mean Innocent

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I remember rushing home from work the day the O.J. Simpson verdict was to be rendered. I knew he was responsible for the death of his wife and her boyfriend. Time seemed to stand still as Judge Ito read ” I find the defendant NOT GUILTY”.  Actually it was the jury foreman who read the shocking verdict.

Like many who heard the verdict, I thought NOT GUILTY was tantamount to innocent. However, as Kelly Ann Booth incisively points out on her Practical Law Blog, a verdict of not guilty only demonstrates that the prosecutors have failed to show a defendant is guilty. This is consistent with the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Constitution. So while Simpson may have actually been guilty of murdering Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, the court did not prove as much.

This type of legal reasoning is very similar to the P-Value analysis in statistical thinking where not rejecting a claim does NOT mean the same thing as accepting a claim or hypothesis.

 

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