Richard's mOblOg

by gill1109

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I'm a British mathematician, been in the Netherlands for 35 years ("chercher la femme"). Recently became a double proud grandfather. Have a compulsion, but it's not secret, to want to correct miscarriages of justice involving abuse of science, see Dhamaka's plea

THE 9-11 was my 50th birthday. That's why I use it in my internet name, but English fashion, 11-9. The other part is my surname.

No-one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition

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Richie and Pete in NRC

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Today Peter Grunwald and I submitted our petition on Lucia de Berk, to the Minister of Justice and the Secretary of State for justice. We were nicely received at the Ministry of Justice, and the journalists who turned up to see the show were well satisfied. I pointed out that this is merely the"half-time" score - the petition is going to stay open till the Supreme Court decide whether or not they'll reopen the case.

I have to exlain that Fokke and Sukke (two ducks who stand for two typical law students in Amsterdam; their names mean roughly "Fucker" and "Nutter") are a long running gag in the quality newspaper NRC. So it reads "Fucker and Nutter know it instinctively". Fucker: "The chance that almost all the professors of statistics agree ...". Nutter: " obviously extremely small". I am going to frame this and put it up in my office.

Here's the press release put out by the University of Leiden.

Press-release University Leiden and the
Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science, Amsterdam

2 November 2007

Renowned international scientists and medical experts request the
immediate reopening of the case against Lucia de Berk.

Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin and Secretary of State Albayrak receive
petition concerning the case of Lucia de Berk.

A petition was submitted to the Minister and to the Secretary of
State for Justice, requesting an immediate reopening of the case of
the nurse Lucia de Berk, on Friday 2 November at 11.00 a.m. in the
Hague. Mrs. de Berk was convicted for 7 alleged murders and 3 alleged
attempts at hospitals in the Hague from 1997 to 2001. More than 80
eminent professors signed the petition, including almost all the Dutch
professors in statistics, medical statistics and probability. Among
the renowned foreign scientists who signed the petition are: the
British authors of the present standard academic text on statistics
and law; the president of the Royal Statistical Society (London); two
members of the Swedish Academy of Sciences; the president-elect of the
International Federation of Societies of Toxicologic Pathologists; and
perhaps the most eminent statistician in the world, Sir David Cox,
Master of Nuffield College, Oxford. The petition only states that the
evidence against Lucia is not convincing, on scientific grounds. No
statement is made concerning guilt or innocence.

The petition was delivered by Prof. Richard Gill (University of
Leiden), who is president of the Dutch Society for Statistics and
Operations Research and member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences,
and by Dr. Peter Grunwald, mathematical statistician at the Centre for
Mathematics and Computer Science, Amsterdam.

Gill en Grunwald claim that the courts overlooked essential
statistical and medical insights. This is also the conclusion of the
Committee for Evaluation of Closed Cases, which presented their
results earlier this week, after a year's study. That committee
reported that there is disagreement among scientific experts, but
refrained from stating who is to be believed. Gill en Grunwald have no
hesitation in taking that step. They point out that (a) all competent
statisticians, both within the Netherlands and internationally, who
have studied the case, come to exactly the same conclusion as
themselves: there is no strong statistical evidence that Lucia de Berk
had anything at all to do with the deaths at the hospitals (deaths of
young babies with multiple and severe genetic defects in one hospital,
and deaths of terminally ill in a geriatric ward in another); (b) two
of the world's most competent medical expects on the subject of
digoxine poisoning (and the only two who have been consulted) state
categorically that baby Amber can not have died of digoxin poisoning;
and (c), because Lucia's conviction is based on a so-called chain
argument (much weaker evidence is needed for subsequent cases, after
the first has been "proved" according to normal legal standards), the
preceding now implies that the rest of the case has collapsed. They
note, by the way, that the "chain argument" is actually an implicit
use of statistical (Bayesian) reasoning; and furthermore, that
statistical and medical evidence combined suggests that there never
were any murders at all.

The petitioners are very aware that it is the Supreme Court, and not
the Minister, who decides on reopening of a closed case. Because of
this, Stijn Franken - Lucia's defence lawyer - will submit the
petition to the Procurator General of the Supreme Court. For the same
reason, the petition remains open for further signatures, till the
Supreme Court has taken their decision. According to Mr. Brouwer,
chief Procurator-General of the Netherlands and head of the Public
Ministry, the report submitted to him by the three wise men only
represents "half-time" - because of this, he refused to make any
statement at all about the direction the case would go now.

Note for editors:

- The petition will be delivered at: Ministry of Justitice,
Schedeldoekshaven 100, Den Haag; the petition-text can be found at
- Further information:

Dr. Peter Grunwald, tel. +31 (0)20-5924115,
Prof. Richard Gill, tel. +31 (0)6-22427127,
You can leave questions on voicemail, or alternatively contact Annette Kik,
press-officer, tel. 020-5924248/9333,,
/> Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica

Univ. Leiden, ICS - press-officer,
2nd Nov 2007, 23:47   | tags:,,


Dhamaka says:

time for bed I think!

3rd Nov 2007, 01:02

JokerXL says:

Fantastic job Richard!

3rd Nov 2007, 08:55

Alfie says:

This looks like the start of very good news indeed. Well done for all of your continued unflagging efforts D.

3rd Nov 2007, 10:39