Say you’re accused of a legal offense and you have to make the decision to fight it or plead guilty and hope for the best. Besides the advice of lawyers, there’s little hard data out there to help you make the decision.
But Legal Stats is out to reverse that assumption. A team of UNC students found that data (at least in North Carolina) and is determined to make it usable. The plan for Legal Stats is to develop an algorithm that factors your offense, the arresting officer, race, age, neighborhood and the judge’s record to determine the likely outcome of the case. It won’t provide legal advice, but it will provide hard data to help you know when to seek it out.
As journalists, we’re intrigued about how all this data can serve our purposes of telling good stories and providing valuable information. What if we could also purchase this data to report the likelihood a person would be convicted of a crime?
Legal Stats was born at the Reese News Lab, a sort of incubator of media-related business ideas within the School of Journalism. We wrote about the lab back in April, before the current students signed on for the summer. We also covered the first-of-its-kind UNC- and Reese-sponsored Journalism School Hackathon in June.
Legal Stats was one of two projects born in the lab this summer and pitched Monday before professors, entrepreneurs and investors at American Underground.
The other is in stealth mode as it seeks a partnership with a potential client. We hope to eventually post that team’s pitch too.