Archive | November, 2012

Blackstone’s formulation

30 Nov

In criminal law, Blackstone’s formulation (also known as Blackstone’s ratio or the Blackstone ratio) is the principle: “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“, expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s.


  Historical expressions of the principle

The principle is much older than Blackstone’s formulation, being closely tied to the presumption of innocence in criminal trials. An early example of the principle appears in the Bible (Genesis 18:23-32),[1][2] as:

Abraham drew near, and said, “Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it?[3]What if ten are found there?” He [The Lord] said, “I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.”[4]

The twelfth-century legal theorist Maimonides, expounding on this passage as well as Exodus 23:7 (“the innocent and righteous slay thou not“) argued that executing an accused criminal on anything less than absolute certainty would progressively lead to convictions merely “according to the judge’s caprice. Hence the Exalted One has shut this door” against the use of presumptive evidence, for “it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.”[1][5][6]

Sir John Fortescue‘s De Laudibus Legum Angliae (c. 1470) states that “one would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death, than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally.” Similarly, on 3 October 1692, while decrying the Salem witch trials, Increase Mather adapted Fortescue’s statement and wrote, “It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that the Innocent Person should be Condemned.”

Other commentators have echoed the principle; Benjamin Franklin stated it as, “it is better [one hundred] guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer”.[7]

John Adams also expanded upon the rationale behind Blackstone’s Formulation when he wrote: “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

  Alternative viewpoints

More authoritarian personalities are supposed to have taken the opposite view; Bismarck is believed to have stated that “it is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape;”[1] and Pol Pot[8] made similar remarks. Wolfgang Schäuble[9] referenced this principle while saying that it is not applicable to the context of preventing terrorist attacks.

Alexander Volokh cites an apparent questioning of the principle, with the tale of a Chinese professor who responds, “Better for whom?”[1]


  1. ^ a b c d n Guilty Men”, 146 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 173, Alexander Volokh, 1997.
  2. ^ Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the Threat, Responding to the Challenge, Yale University Press, Alan M. Dershowitz, 2003
  3. ^ Genesis 18:23 , World English Bible (draft form)
  4. ^ Genesis 18:32 , World English Bible (draft form)
  5. ^ Moses Maimonides, The Commandments, Neg. Comm. 290, at 269-271 (Charles B. Chavel trans., 1967).
  6. ^ Goldstein, Warren (2006). Defending the human spirit: Jewish law’s vision for a moral society. Feldheim Publishers. p. 269.ISBN 978-1-58330-732-8. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  7. ^ 9 Benjamin Franklin, Works 293 (1970), Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Benjamin Vaughan (14 March 1785)
  8. ^ Locard, Henri. Pol Pot’s Little Red Book: The Sayings of Angkar. Silkworm Books, 2004. pp. 209.
  9. ^ “Schäuble: Zur Not auch gegen Unschuldige vorgehen”. FAZ.

  External links


Wichita Mountains

29 Nov

Chicken Little

29 Nov



28 Nov

The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa (comic opera) composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (1784).

The Blair Witch

28 Nov


Iron Buttlerfly

28 Nov

Who wants to copulate like a caterpillar?  That’s a trans- regression.

The Oasis

28 Nov

I stayed so long at Fort Sill during training that it became a home for me, when I finally received my security clearance for AIT training I was allowed to go off post with other soldiers.  One popular bar/night club was called the Oasis I went there a few times but since I never really enjoyed drinking alcohol I quit going there.

I went skating once with a chubby fellow soldier who had his own skates and girls he knew there.  But I wasn’t really comfortable with that, the most fun I had in Lawton Oklahoma was just tramping across town in the evenings when I had a pass to leave post.

I really liked the PX the Wal-Mart of army posts they had neat stuff at low prices that I liked to buy.

One fellow soldier I knew that stayed in my room which had two bunk beds was into reggae Peter Tosh especially, we went out by the pool one day when his mother came to visit and she was like why don’t you put suntan lotion on each other and we were both like no way that’s gay.

He brought in a little marijuana once that I smoked a little of but it didn’t really turn me on because there were so many other activities that we took part in at the time that it really didn’t interest me.

Another soldier in my room was into this saying “Call 1-800-Waaaaa” whenever someone had a complaint or a gripe.

Some soldiers from the northeastern U.S. especially were into shaving their sideburns completely off.

There were a few religious soldiers Mormons especially that would say a prayer briefly before eating meals at the chow hall but most of us didn’t.