Month: May 2020

Netflix Series Reveal Injustice and Junk Science Are Plaguing Courts

With so many of us doing our part to stay at home, it’s been the perfect time to dive into a binge-worthy Netflix series.

For many, it’s been “Tiger King” or reruns of “Friends,” but some of the more interesting series deconstruct the American justice system and its complexities: innocence or guilt, truth and facts, and institutional bias.

Because television series allow directors to carefully examine a story and interview dozens of witnesses and experts, audiences have become addicted to the very real characters dealing with tragedy and the inadequacies of our courts.

Shows such as “Making a Murderer” and “The Staircase,” in which their principal characters cling to innocence, inspired millions to ask the simple question: Is the American legal system just and can it deliver justice? What happens when experts lead juries and judges astray?

It should be no surprise, therefore, that miscarriages of justice and tainted evidence, mixed in with biased scientific evidence, are not just fodder for documentarians but are represented in thousands of cases that don’t get their own TV deal.

Our binge sessions allow us to rummage through the hundreds of examples of “junk science” that has been taken for fact before judges and juries, sending innocent people to prison or resulting in multi-million-dollar lawsuit settlements to tort injury lawyers.

In “The Innocence Files,” it was controversial “bite mark” analysis that sent an innocent man to death row for nearly 16 years. Earlier this year, Washington Post writer Radley Balko examined the very bogus forensic science that has plagued our nation’s courts: bite mark analysis, tire treads, ballistics evidence, carpet fibers and more.

One tool our legal system has devised to counter bogus science, however, is the process of a Daubert standard, an eponymous process from a Supreme Court trial that seeks to classify expert testimony and evidence.

Daubert hearings empower judges to examine the gathering of evidence and whether it should be allowed in court cases. And this applies to broader scientific evidence beyond simple forensics.

Balko mentions one D.C. judge’s Daubert ruling on ballistics specifically, calling into question the black-or-white conclusions such science could produce. That’s inspired lawyers around the country to ask for Daubert rulings in their cases.

One such example in the headlines is whether or not baby powder, an essential product for new moms and dads and a staple of the female hygiene industry, contains cancer-causing minerals such as asbestos.

Rulings on both sides have awarded up to $4.7 billion to plaintiffs suing pharmaceutical and beauty giant Johnson & Johnson. Select scientific evidence, and whether it can be admitted as evidence at trial, is at the heart of these cases.

To that end, a New Jersey district court is currently reviewing whether submitted scientific evidence that purports a link between talc, a main ingredient of baby powder, and various cancers should be allowed as evidence.

Thus far, major independent studies have found no causal link, including evaluations by the American Cancer Society and a recent study from the National Institutes of Health.

But expert witnesses brought in by the plaintiffs have conducted studies that say the opposite. Some of those studies have yet to be peer-reviewed or replicated, but they have been admitted regardless. Which evidence will get the light of day? That is what the judge will have to decide.

In this civil trial, millions of dollars and reputations are at stake. In so many others, it is the lives of innocent men and women.

As citizens, taxpayers and consumers, one major concern with our justice system should be that only the most rigorous and reputable science be admitted as evidence. Only incontrovertible truth and seasoned scientific inquiry should sway juries, not evidence that can be easily debunked or will be easily refuted years later.

If we uphold that as our standard, we can strive toward the legal reform we truly deserve, both for those accused of crimes and those in the crosshairs of civil disputes. That’s the only way we’ll achieve true justice in our nation’s courts.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

End the lockdown and flatten the state

The lockdown not only drags down our standard of living but also explodes government debt, we need free markets now more than ever now that unemployment is on the rise, argues Imre Wessels

It is difficult to comprehend how much the world has changed in so little time. Here’s what happened:

  1. Researchers mention a high mortality rate based on a group of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
  2. The media picks up the figure and asks politicians to respond.
  3. Politicians overreact because if the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen, they take credit for averting catastrophe.
  4. Massive unemployment, government bailouts, more power to the state.

Let’s put everything in perspective. The common flu kills 290,000 – 650,000 people worldwide annually. We don’t take any extreme measures (closing down businesses, telling people they can’t leave their home, travel bans, etc.) to prevent these deaths. Why not?

Part of the answer could be that we need to accept a certain amount of risk as part of life. Another part is the claim that COVID-19 is much more deadly than the common flu. But no one knows by how much since most people who display no or little symptoms don’t get tested.

If we only look at people with severe symptoms, then we will overestimate the fatality rate. Dr. Eran Bendavid and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya looked at research where population wide testing was conducted. One example is the Italian town of Vò, where the entire population (3,300 people) got tested. 90 turned out to be positive, a prevalence of 2.7%.

If we apply the same prevalence on the whole province (955,000 people) then there should have been 26,000 COVID-19 cases. How many were reported? Only 198. The Italian mortality rate of 8% might be a factor of 130 times lower. That means the real fatality rate is around 0,06%, which is like the common flu.

What we know for sure is that this virus mainly impacts elderly people with pre-existing comorbidities (illnesses). 48.6% of Italian deaths had 3 or more pre-existing comorbidities before they had COVID-19. Many elderly patients with comorbidities might be dying ‘with’ the virus but not ‘from’ it. Only 1.2% of deaths had no pre-existing condition. Elderly people with pre-existing comorbidities are also far more likely to get hospitalized.

These findings mean that we can pinpoint policies to help those groups who are most at risk by encouraging them to stay at home. Having a clear picture who is most at risk means that the rest of us can get back to work, while still taking necessary precautions. Extending the lockdown will put more business on extensive government support, thereby further zombifying the economy with businesses that would have gone bankrupt whether there was a lockdown or not.

This zombification not only drags down our standard of living but also explodes government debt. Government debt sucks out resources from the productive sector and into the government sector and their zombie businesses. The bigger the unproductive sector of the economy, the more difficult it will become to rebound the economy. We need free markets now more than ever now that unemployment is on the rise.

Even during this coronacrisis we are seeing how businesses are providing us with necessary goods and services. How safety regulations are suddenly suspended in the name of safety, allowing brewers to produce hand gels for example. During this pandemic we need less regulations, not more. We need a return of single use plastic bags, allow more test kits on the market and deregulation of drug possession to make sure prisons do not get overcrowded. This lockdown is an overreaction of global proportions but as long as we are flattening the curve, we should also be thinking of flattening the state.

Originally published here.

Author: Imre Wessels is active for the Fight Corona Not Liberties campaign, an initiative of the Consumer Choice Center.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Scroll to top