A cautionary word on the meaning of “evidence”

When writing reports I am always very careful about using the word “evidence”.  A colleague once recounted a story to me about an experience he had in court in the early stages of his career.  He had used the word “evidence” in his report when talking about what he had found during his examinations at the laboratory.  The judge leaned towards him and said “Young man, it is not for you to tell the Court what is evidence.  Evidence is what I allow to be heard by the jury in my courtroom.  Until I allow it to be heard and accepted in my courtroom, what you have in your report are scientific findings and nothing more.”

The moral of the story is: don’t presume that what you have written will be accepted as evidence.  It’s only evidence if it is accepted as such by the Judge.  A scientist’s findings are exactly that – their findings.  Oh, and never upset the judge – not a wise move whatever way one looks at it.

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