Monday, October 5, 2009

An anniversary of sorts and some vocabulary words YO!

We passed a chilling milestone this past weekend, for those who didn't notice, I'm talking about October 3. October 3, 2008 was a pretty $hitty day if you were race car driver Helio Castroneves, his sister Katiucia Castroneves or his attorney Allan Miller who were charged with six counts of tax evasion by the feds. I couldn't believe my eyes as I saw Helio being paraded in hand cuffs and leg shackles, incredible! Luckily for Helio and crew they went to trial and on April 18, 2009 were acquitted, shortly thereafter Helio went on to win the Indy 500. Good on him. Oct 3, was a pretty $hitty for a couple of other Dade county residents and a local attorney, it was the day that the arrests in the Bernardo Barrera case were made. Nothing like that nasty ass police trick where they haul your ass to jail on a Friday hoping that you won't be able to make bail then causing you to sit your ass down in jail till Monday! Classy move on the part of the state YO! Naturally I wasn't aware of the Barrera case last Oct 3, I only became aware of it when the Miami Herald article came out on Tuesday October 7. I wonder what October 7, 2009 has in store for us? I'll do an update on Wednesday and see where everyone in the case is a full year later.

On to some words and phrases that I think are going to be relevant to our story, for today boys and girls, we have three words or phrases, they are:
  1. Belief Perseverance
  2. Confirmation Bias
  3. Nemesis
Let's start with the term Belief Perseverance;
"the tendency to cling to ones initial belief even after receiving new information that contradicts or dis-confirms the basis of that belief."
Fair enough, we've all been guilty of that at some point or another. In the context of our story, I'll have to admit we're guilty of Belief Perseverance, based on our initial experiences and impressions of Detective Jorge Baluja we here at the Straw Buyer are convinced he's a sub standard cop who at least in this case ran a piss poor investigation. Now, lets say some new information on a later case came to light that showed that contrary to our beliefs, Detective Baluja was a fantastic cop (YEAH RIGHT!), since we are predisposed to believe that he is a $hitty cop, no matter how much fantastic police work was brought before us, no matter how many stray cats he pulls out of trees, no matter how many who done it's he solves, we would be hard pressed to change our minds about Detective Baluja. In a nutshell, once our minds are made up, we're not going to change it! Here's a perfect example, no matter how many times you watch this video, some people will never believe that it's not someones ass that's being poked!

Moving on, let's now look at the term Confirmation Bias;
"an irrational tendency to search for, interpret or remember information in a way that confirms preconceptions or working hypotheses."
Huh? It's actually a lot easier to understand than you think, this is when people disproportionally look for and favor information that confirms their faulty theories or beliefs. Perhaps Sir Francis Bacon says it better than I can:

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion, draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects.
Ok, going back to the example Detective Baluja, no matter what kind of evidence we find, if we were guilty of confirmation bias, we would only see what would prove his incompetence as a investigator and completely neglect anything good that the facts would show. Interesting! Both Belief Perseverance and Confirmation Bias are two common types of cognitive bias that most everyone is guilty of, it's happened to me plenty of times. It's this kind of behavior that gave birth to the term "hard headed". Does anyone remember back in the Blanton Harris traffic accident investigation when Detective Baluja exhibited a textbook example of Confirmation Bias? No matter how many witnesses told him otherwise, no matter what the physical evidence told him, Detective Baluja was convinced that Mr. Harris was at fault for the accident and nothing would change his mind. Perfect example of confirmation bias.

Who cares about some sort of psychological mumbo jumbo that we're all guilty of? It's no big deal for normal folk, but what if you were a cop that was wrongly convinced of someones guilt? Imagine the consequences if a cop whose got the power to destroy your life incorrectly assumes that you're guilty of a crime? If indeed he's guilty of the cognitive biases that we've discussed, no matter what kind of evidence is in front of him, no matter what kind of witness testimony he's got, he's going to mold it and change it to suit his needs. Dangerous stuff friends! Unfortunately these psychological biases in law enforcement are the ones that can lead to misconduct.

Moving on to our last vocabulary word, Nemesis. For nemesis, I'm going to go outside the conventional definition offered by Websters dictionary, I prefer this one:
Nemesis-A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent.
Isn't that fantastic? You never know who that "appropriate agent" is going to be, maybe a cop, perhaps a prosecutor or maybe some jerk with a blog...

Big day coming up Jorge!

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