Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly reveals the common mistakes humans make in interpreting statistics, along with the devastating impact these errors can have on the outcome of criminal trials. Peter Donnelly is an expert in probability theory who applies statistical methods to genetic data, spurring advances in disease treatment and insight on our evolution. He's also an expert on DNA analysis and an advocate for sensible statistical analysis in the courtroom.
Recruit a few friends and try Donnelly’s coin toss experiment yourself. Do you get the same result?
Follow up on the Sally Clark case. Begin with her conviction in 1999 and research what happened to Clark and the other key people involved. Did the case catalyze any legal reforms in Britain (or elsewhere)? You might begin your research by constructing a timeline from available news reports; search for “Sally Clark 1999” in the archives of one or more of the following:
The Guardian http://www.guardiannews.com/
The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
The Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel Quarterly:
The presentation of probability to the jury (Winter 2011) http://www.thefederation.org/documents/V61N2_Raghavan.pdf
Plus: It’s a match (07/12/2010) http://plus.maths.org/content/os/issue55/features/dnacourt/index
Understanding Uncertainty: Convicted on Statistics? http://understandinguncertainty.org/node/545
TED: Arthur Benjamin’s formula for changing math education http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/arthur_benjamin_s_formula_for_changing_math_education.html