, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 85-89
Date: 29 Jun 2007

Larry Laudan, Truth, Error, and Criminal Law: An Essay in Legal Epistemology

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Larry Laudan has written an iconoclastic book, one based on the premise that the criminal law should promote the search for the truth. He examines the ways in which existing legal rules and procedures advance or thwart that purpose, and proposes numerous changes in them that would enhance their truth-finding tendencies, or that would at least reduce the tendency of criminal trials to produce error (understood as either false convictions or false acquittals). By calling his book ‘‘iconoclastic,’’ I do not mean to suggest that it is shrill or polemical. Laudan does in numerous places express openly his astonishment or dismay at what judges and legal scholars say on behalf of features of the criminal law that, in his view, confound the search for the truth in criminal cases. But for the most part his book is closely and carefully argued. What he says is likely to upset much of the legal establishment, and judging from the overall quality of his arguments, one would hope that it would do s