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Digital Dice by Paul J. Nahin

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16. The Appeals Court Paradox

How dreadful it is when the right judge judges wrong!

—Sophocles (495–405 B.C.)

Imagine a criminal appeals court consisting of five judges; let’s call them A, B, C, D, and E. The judges meet regularly to vote (independently, of course) on the fate of prisoners who have petitioned for a review of their convictions. The result of each of the court’s deliberations is determined by a simple majority; for a petitioner to be granted or denied a new trial requires three or more votes. Based on long-term record keeping, ...

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