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Courtesy Flush Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 07:26 AM
Original message
"Web site" baffles Internet terrorism trial judge
LONDON (Reuters) - A British judge admitted on Wednesday he was struggling to cope with basic terms like "Web site" in the trial of three men accused of inciting terrorism via the Internet.

Judge Peter Openshaw broke into the questioning of a witness about a Web forum used by alleged Islamist radicals.

"The trouble is I don't understand the language. I don't really understand what a Web site is," he told a London court during the trial of three men charged under anti-terrorism laws.

Prosecutor Mark Ellison briefly set aside his questioning to explain the terms "Web site" and "forum." An exchange followed in which the 59-year-old judge acknowledged: "I haven't quite grasped the concepts."

Violent Islamist material posted on the Internet, including beheadings of Western hostages, is central to the case.

Concluding Wednesday's session and looking ahead to testimony on Thursday by a computer expert, the judge told Ellison: "Will you ask him to keep it simple, we've got to start from basics."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070516/wr_nm/security_brit... ;_ylt=AtNF8gMkLGT8bPE8ISOMJigE1vAI

How will we ever win TWAT with this system?
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jilln Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 07:39 AM
Response to Original message
1. Seems like grounds for a mistrial
There should be some procedure for switching judges for things like this.
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Kagemusha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 07:43 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Doubt it.
Cases have to be won based on the evidence presented, not relying on prior knowledge by a judge or jurors. I don't see how they could get a mistrial.
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jilln Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 09:39 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. Even if the judge still doesn't understand anything by the end?
How can a judge not know about the Internet?
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Kagemusha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 10:14 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. If he still doesn't understand, the prosecution hasn't proven its case.
Judges are supposed to be men of reason, not technical experts. If it can't be explained to a proper judge the case is deemed to have insufficient merit i.e. no guilty verdict...

That's the way the system's intended.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 10:32 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Judicial notice of reality
It's a somewhat formalist and impossible argument to say that the prosecutor has to explain the internet as part of his case. It is a myth that judges judge based solely on the evidence presented in some kind of reality vacuum. There are some interesting epistemological studies about what judges have to know in order to put the evidence in context.

When a judge formally acknowledges that he is relying on outside knowledge, he will say he is taking "judicial notice" of such and such a fact. But that only highlights the fact that judges have "judicial notice" of contemporary social, political, economic and technological reality.

A judge who cannot take implicit judicial notice of the existence of the world wide web is simply not qualified to judge a case based on internet terrorism, and it is silly and unrealistic for the prosecutor to have the burden of educating him on the reality of the internet.
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Kagemusha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 11:20 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. I understand the concept you cite but, what is your alternative?
The British legal system is not, I repeat, not set up in order to have cases of internet terrorism only go before judges who are net savvy. To require that is to go against centuries of tradition and to make some judges more equal than others, not something they will lightly tolerate.

Also, well, to put it plainly, judges take notice of reality about things that they have reason to know and understand. The emphasis is plainly put on the social, political, and economic parts - not the technological reality. In other words, judges have long been forced to deal with issues that not all reasonable people of the age of 59 can be expected to have dealt with on a regular basis prior to the court case. The internet is merely one in a long list of technological changes that have occured over the last two centuries; though considered far better educated than the common man, judges are not expected to be technical experts because justice is supposed to be apparent, visible, understandable. That's why the system's set up so that the prosecutors need to prove their case despite technical ignorance on the part of the judge. It's considered a check against bullshitting with technobabble.

Having said all this, I'd much prefer a judge in this case who did understand fundamental things about the internet and web pages. However, this thing about "silly and unrealistic"... that's not good enough. It is not good enough for something to seem silly and unrealistic to someone very knowledgeful about the subject to stop it from having to be done in a court of law.

That and, I don't see why it has to be that hard. A web page is a document read on a computer monitor with content that is brought to the local computer through electronic data via phone lines. A forum is a computer communication version of a meeting place. Silly and unrealistic as it is to make prosecutors say these two simple sentences, if they have to be said, they should be.
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HamdenRice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 02:53 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. There's a whole background logic to the net this guy won't get
Everything from the way internet forums make people exaggerate or overreact; the problem of anonymity, identity and the ability to impersonate others; the global, international reach of the net; it goes on and on.

Someone like this simply should not be trying this case. I'm a pragmatist and I don't really care that centuries of tradition make it hard to replace this judge.

He should recuse himself and the case should be tried by someone who has the general background knowledge of the internet that the average London cab driver possesses.
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 07:43 AM
Response to Original message
3. First of all, it's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. n/t
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Dhalgren Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-17-07 07:49 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. What I want to know is, is it a "web" or a "net"? These are two different things
and we need to know which is correct! I mean is it something a NASCAR driver puts on in his car for safety? Or is it something a lunchroom lady wears? Does it have to do with fishermen? Or has it to do with Spiders? These are serious questions for an earnest, British Judge!
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