Math on Trial by Leila Schneps
How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom

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In the wrong hands, math can be deadly. Even the simplest numbers can become powerful forces when manipulated by journalists, politicians or other public figures, but in the case of the law your liberty—and your life—can depend on the right calculation.

Math on Trial tells the story of ten trials in which mathematical arguments were used—and disastrously misused—as evidence. Despite years of math classes, most people (and most jurors) fail to detect even simple mathematical sophistry, resulting in such horrors as a medical expert’s faulty calculation of probabilities providing the key evidence for a British mother’s conviction for the murder of her two babies. The conviction was later overturned, but three years in prison took its toll—Sally Clark died of acute alcohol intoxication in March of 2007. Mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez use a wide range of examples, from a mid-19th-century dispute over wills that became a signal case in the forensic use of mathematics, to the conviction and subsequent exoneration of Amanda Knox, to show how the improper application of mathematical concepts can mean the difference between walking free and life in prison.

The cases discussed include:
-The Case of Amanda Knox (How a judge’s denial of a second DNA test may have destroyed a chance to reveal the truth about Meredith Kercher’s murder)
-The Case of Joe Sneed (How a fabricated probability framed a son for his parents’ grisly killing)
-The Case of Sally Clark (How multiplying non-independent probabilities landed an innocent mother in jail for the murder of her children)
-The Case of Janet Collins (How unjustified estimates combined with a miscalculated probability convicted an innocent couple of violent robbery)

A colorful narrative of mathematical abuse featuring such characters as Charles Ponzi, Alfred Dreyfus, Hetty Green, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Math on Trial shows that legal expertise isn’t everything when it comes to proving a man innocent.

About Leila Schneps

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Leila Schneps studied mathematics at Harvard University and now holds a research position at the University of Paris, France. She has taught mathematics for nearly 30 years. Schneps's daughter, Coralie Colmez, graduated with a First from Cambridge University in 2009, and now lives in London where she teaches and writes about mathematics. They both belong to the Bayes in Law Research Consortium, an international team devoted to improving the use of probability and statistics in criminal trials.
Published March 12, 2013 by Basic Books. 274 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Science & Math, Law & Philosophy, Crime, Professional & Technical, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Math on Trial

Kirkus Reviews

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Chronicles of miscarriages of justice due to the misuse of statistics, combined with blow-by-blow accounts of criminal trials.

Jan 06 2013 | Read Full Review of Math on Trial: How Numbers Ge...

Publishers Weekly

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A mother-daughter team of mathematicians turn the potentially dry topic of statistics and probability theory into an entertaining tour of courtroom calculations gone wrong. Schneps and Colmez structur

Jan 21 2013 | Read Full Review of Math on Trial: How Numbers Ge...

Washington Independent Review of Books

However, mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez argue in Math on Trial that in at least 10 instances over the past century, innocent or wrongly accused defendants have been imprisoned or publicly harassed in part due to simple mathematical errors at trial, such as believing two events ar...

Apr 15 2013 | Read Full Review of Math on Trial: How Numbers Ge...

City Book Review

Whether a nurse’s reputation is impugned by bad statistical analysis that brands her a murderer or an interracial couple is charged with theft because faulty mathematics coerce a judge into believing they’re the only possible suspects, the idea that poorly applied math can ruin the lives of innoc...

Jun 06 2013 | Read Full Review of Math on Trial: How Numbers Ge...

Huffington Post

I would recommend too for parents trying to support teenagers in their studies of mathematics - or in fact, law - as the book, although written at an adult level, puts complex concepts very simply and does not show anything brutal in pictures or go into more disturbing details than you might find...

Apr 01 2013 | Read Full Review of Math on Trial: How Numbers Ge...

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