In a criminal trial, the prosecution may offer circumstantial evidence which is less than conclusive, and suggest that an innocent explanation is unlikely, even though an innocent explanation is quite reasonable, and is not excluded by reliable evidence
People sometimes say “I don’t believe in coincidences”. The universe of potential suspicious circumstances may be very large, and we often cannot even say if a coincidence is likely or unlikely.
This is “inductive reasoning”. From the wikipedia article on inductive reasoning:
“As with deductive arguments, biases can distort the proper application of inductive argument, thereby preventing the reasoner from forming the most logical conclusion based on the clues. Examples of these biases include the availability heuristic, confirmation bias, and the predictable-world bias.”
Confirmation bias may set in when inductive arguments are made (whether implicitly as evidence is presented, or explicitly in closing arguments), and evidence that shows the prosecution case is improbable may be ignored as a result of confirmation bias.
I believe wrongful convictions can easily occur when ambiguous evidence is presented. It is quite natural for jurors to reason inductively, as inductive reasoning often produces good results, even though it is not reliable.
Prior Discussion which led to this post.