14.0838 stylometrics in the courts: Patty Hearst case

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Fri May 04 2001 - 02:00:01 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 838.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Fri, 04 May 2001 06:53:09 +0100
             From: "Theodore F. Brunner" <tbrunner@uci.edu>
             Subject: Re: 14.0833 stylometrics in the courts?

    > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 833.
    > Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
    > <http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/>
    > <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>
    > Date: Thu, 03 May 2001 07:07:07 +0100
    > From: Hilary Attfield <u0124@wvnvm.wvnet.edu>
    > >
    >Could anyone point me to documentation of the use of stylometrics for proof
    >of authorship in British, Canadian, or Australian courts? I believe that
    >such evidence is not generally acceptable in US courts but is in the
    >aforementioned countries. Help, anyone?
    >Hilary Attfield

    I am not so sure about the comment regarding US courts, and what I am about
    to mention will require considerably more research. In 1974, when Patty
    Hearst was about to go to trial for her involvement in Symbionese
    Liberation Army activities, I received a late-night phone call from F. Lee
    Bailey, her attorney (I was dabbling in computer-aided stylometrics then).
    Bailey wanted to know whether computers could be used to demonstrate that
    various written statements addressed by Patty to her parents and to the
    press were in fact NOT written by her, but by a member of the SLA group.
    The matter never went anywhere (I ended up telling Bailey that the sum
    total of relevant written material available was far too small to permit
    any reasonable conclusions); nevertheless, it seems to me that Bailey would
    not have pursued this track, had he been certain that any potential
    evidence resulting from it would be inadmittable in court.

    Ted Brunner

    Theodore F. Brunner
    28802 Top of the World Drive
    Laguna Beach, CA 92651
    Phone (949) 494-8861

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