### Defeating or Supporting a Case Characterization

edited 5/2/12

Let us consider the following case described by:

5 year-old Arnold is bitten by a squirrel after pinching his sister and running out into the backyard.

Using the following scale:

1 = definitely not
2 = probably not
3 = unclear
4 = probably so
5 = definitely so

what number would you assign to this case being one of punishment, that is, Arnold is being punished?

The case as described we will call the "prima facie" case, assuming what is given to be basic facts about the situation.

Different people may classify this differently, depending upon the assumptions they make about the situation that are not explicitly given in the prima facie description. Someone who understands the squirrel bite to be a non-related occurrence would probably judge the situation to be a 1 or 2. Another, suppose, very religious, person might see the squirrel as an instrument of God's will and thus give the case a 4 or 5 -- assuming, of course, that God would find pinching one's little sister (How hard?) to be worthy of punishment.

Suppose we decide that it is prima facie

1 = definitely not punishment.

What additional information might we discover that would make us revise our judgment to, say, a four or five? For example, if we found out that Arnold's mother had trained a squirrel to bite on command and used it on Arnold because he pinched his sister, wouldn't this cause us to revise our judgment? This highly unlikely addition to our stock of information, were it to be established, would, we will say, defeat our judgment that that case was not one of punishment. The new information would count as a defeating condition for the prima facie judgment that punishment had not occurred.

By way of contrast, any possible new information that strengthens our initial judgment based on the prima facie evidence, we will call a supporting condition. For example, suppose the squirrel bite took place two weeks later than the pinching and it was after Arnold had already been bitten by a dog in the interim. This information, if we could establish it as fact, would support our original judgment.

Exercise: For the examples below, indicate conditions which would defeat or support the case example and the rendered judgment. Indicate how likely, in your judgment, the new condition is, using the terms highly likely, somewhat likely, possible, not likely, very unlikely.

 PRIMA FACIE CASE JUDGEMENT UNDER REVIEW POSSIBLE DEFEATING CONDITION FOR JUDGMENT POSSIBLE SUPPORTING CONDITION FOR JUDGMENT Example 1. 5 year-old Arnold is bitten by a squirrel after pinching his sister and running out into the backyard. 1 = definitely not a case of punishment. Arnold's mother uses trained squirrels to bite her children when they are bad. Very unlikely. The squirrel bit Arnold because Arnold grabbed its tail. Somewhat likely. Example 2. 5 year-old Arnold is sent to his room by his mother after pinching his sister. 5 = definitely a case of punishment. Arnold's mother doesn't know about the pinching. She wants him to clean his room. Possible. Arnold's mother is aware of the situation and had warned him earlier about pinching anyone. Somewhat likely. PRIMA FACIE CASE JUDGEMENT UNDER REVIEW POSSIBLE DEFEATING CONDITION FOR JUDGMENT POSSIBLE SUPPORTING CONDITION FOR JUDGMENT 3. Mrs. Smith slaps her 5-year old son, Arnold, three times on the buttocks vigorously because she enjoys doing it. 2 = probably not punishment a. b. a. b. 4. 5 year-old Arnold is bitten by a squirrel after pinching his sister and running out into the backyard. 5 = probably a case of punishment. a. b. a. b. 5. 5 year-old Arnold is sent to his room by his mother after pinching his sister. 2 = probably not punishment 6. "Please watch my seat while I get a soda," says Jack to Sam seated nearby. 1 = definitely not a case of violence 7. Jack, while boxing with Sam, knees him in the groin. 5 = definitely a case of violence. 8. Sparring at karate, Jack blocks Sam's kick to his stomach and delivers a hard punch to the side of Sam's headgear 3 = not clear whether it is a case of wrongdoing. 9. Jack "drops in" on Sam just as Sam is preparing dinner. 1 = definitely not a case of wrongdoing. 10. Not wanting to intrude although seeing Mary was upset, Sam waited until she brought up the topic to offer his support. 5 = definitely a case of wisdom. 11. Not wanting to intrude although seeing Mary was upset, Sam waited until she brought up the topic to offer his support. 5 = definitely a case of sensitivity. 12. Furious that it wouldn't start, Sam kicked his car in the bumper and broke his toe. 2 = probably not a case of wisdom