Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Software Models Capital Punishment Outcomes

Found this nugget at the American Constitution Society blog here.

Using Software to Model Death Row Outcomes
by Susan Llwewlyn Leach for The Christian Science Monitor

What some observers find alarming about the outcome is that the 19 points of data supplied on each death-row inmate contained no details of the case. Only facts such as age, race, sex, and marital status were included, along with the date and type of offense.

"That's what makes this important," Dr. Harper says. "We didn't look at the crime itself. We didn't look at whether the defendant had received a fair or unfair representation. We simply looked at characteristics of the inmate."

Wow, without looking at the legal features of the case, this group was able to build software that could predict (with over 90% accuracy) who would and would not be executed. That is a very scary thought, and suggests that demographic and socio-economic factors are as important or more important in capital cases than the facts surrounding the crime itself.

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