Chinese Courtroom: “Your honor, today I’d like…” “GUILTY!”

This is rich. At least one province in China is trying to implement software judges can use to render instant sentencing.

Judges are not usually at risk of losing their jobs to modern technology but that may be changing in China, where new software is handing down sentences automatically. The Zichuan District Court in east China’s Shandong province has installed programs on judges’ computers that provide advice on the proper verdicts in criminal cases, the state-run China Daily reported.

The move appears to be aimed at ensuring standardized decisions and addressing common complaints that China’s judges are ill-trained, corrupt and make arbitrary rulings.

“We aim to establish a regular sentence pattern for criminal trials to avoid different penalties for the same crimes,” said Wang Hongmei, chief judge at the court.

Many judges in China have not received a college education and lack sufficient training in law, although the government has made efforts in recent years to raise the professional standard.

In the Shandong experiment, judges simply enter the relevant details of the crimes plus mitigating circumstances — and the program immediately comes up with an appropriate verdict, according to the paper. But the penalty calculator will not have the final say. Judges will retain the power to hand down their own sentences, depending on circumstances they deem particular to a case.

This is from an email from Brendan (one of the smartest and most talented bloggers out there), who writes,

The Chinese article I found on it actually
makes a bit more sense — it’s a reference for sentencing, rather than verdicts, which WOULD be a useful thing.

Still, I can just imagine what a software judge would be like:

“The court will now hear the case of –”
“I object!”
“This is a violation of my constitutional rights!”
“I’m going to appeal this! I’ll take it to Amnesty International!”

I’m blogrolling him now (his blog was dark for months, but it’s back in full swing now).

Update: Brendan’s own post is here.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

The Federal Judges (nearly to a person) all hate the sentencing “guidelines” that have been imposed on them here in the US. I don’t suppose the Chinese judges will be as outspoken about their “guidelines” coming from a PDA. The problem with guidelines is that they soon become etched in stone becuase it brings on too much trouble to go outside them.

September 8, 2006 @ 12:00 am | Comment

I saw this news on TV and didn’t know what to feel about it. On one hand, at least computer doesn’t accept bribery, on the other hand, sentence handed down by a machine just sounds so outlandish. Perfect black humor.

September 11, 2006 @ 6:05 pm | Comment

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