The Reverend Bayes Goes to Court

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Science  19 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5444, pp. 1462
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5444.1462

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A statistical approach developed by an 18th century clergyman helped the New Jersey Public Defender's Office deal with a thoroughly modern challenge: proving allegations that state troopers were engaged in "racial profiling"--discriminating against African-American drivers by singling them out for traffic stops. The 1994 case, settled this year, was just one of several recent high-profile court appearances for Bayesian statistics, which allows data to be analyzed in the light of prior knowledge--and gives answers that judges, jurors, and other nonstatisticians can more easily interpret.