The Jodi Arias trial and the mathematics of death

Jodi Arias trial

Jodi Arias trial

I do not follow the Jodi Arias case. It strikes me as one of these cases, like Natalee Holloway, that exist only on CNN and whose coverage is often more proportionate to the attractiveness of key players in the trial than to any importance of the facts or issues. Nonetheless, the publicity surrounding such cases can bring interesting features of the criminal justice system to light.  One of these is Arizona’s procedure in death penalty cases whereby, if the first jury hangs, a second jury is convened.  And this got me thinking, how does this procedure affect the probability that the death penalty will be imposed in a given case? Turns out, as shown below, thought of one way, it can increase the probability from 50% to 75%, pretty substantial.  Thought of another way, however, the effect is more moderate, increasing it from 90% to 94%. To see why this is, take a look at the CDF file below.  To do so, you’ll need to install the CDF plug in available here. It will let you see not just the results but the computer code that generated them.

For those who don’t want to install the plugin, however, here’s the key picture.

Jodi Arias graph

Jodi Arias graph: the difference between one bite and two bites

[WolframCDF source=”http://mathlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Jodi-Arias-and-the-mathematica-of-death.cdf” CDFwidth=”768″ CDFheight=”2024″ altimage=”file”]