So many people (and potential jurors!) believe old wives’ tales and superstitions. This is fun for campfire stories, but is a disaster when fairy tales influence work in a Police Station, Crime Lab, or Court Room.
The association of full moons with crime rates is a persistent myth that is perpetuated every 28 days. The Planet Earth, and Humanity, have a long relationship with our moon, the Moon. Luna is tied into our calendars, tides, migrations, festivals, and religions. There is no doubt that the moon has a significant impact on the Earth and its inhabitants. But we attribute much more to its influence that she is due.
A full moon is a beautiful and remarkable event. And its presence is often noted when strange things occur. When we experience something interesting, like an accident, disaster, crime, insomnia, a “bump” in the night, a full moon gets noted. Because a full moon is notable. When those things happen the rest of the month, the big notable thing is not present to influence our perception.
A few studies from the 70s and 80s studied police reports and hospital records to look for a correlation between events and full moons. These studies are often cited. BUT, they were small samples, and one neglected to note that two of the three full moons studied were on weekends, when more people were out and about at night. Statistical error. Today, with Big Data, and accurate information recorded and shared world-wide, the causation between violence and full moons has been discredited.
The influence of moon on crime is the same as the influence of the Zodiac on crime: none. Believe me, if there were science to support a full-moon “Lunacy Defense”, I would use it to save a client. But there is no foundation there. And on the flip side, I must often fight pseudoscience in the court-room presented by the prosecution. Police and prosecutors have the same biases and misconceptions as many people. Pseudoscience does not belong in court.
Below are some other types of “scientific” evidence that are not infallible. In fact, cognitive bias, calibration, contamination, chain of custody, statistical variance, and a number of other factors can impugn forensic evidence.
- Breath-a-lyzers (often mis-calibrated)
- Shaken Baby Syndrome (no credible medical evidence to support this “syndrome”)
- Fingerprints (subjective error-prone 19th Century technology)
- Drug Lab Results (lazy or corrupt lab work can ruin credibility)
- Polygraph Lie Detectors (see Magic 8 Ball)
- Hypnotic recall (false memory hokum)
- DNA Evidence (not foolproof)
All these “smoking guns” are just types of evidence that a good attorney should question in court. The thing about science is that it is true whether you believe in it or not.
Science and reason are as important in Life as in the courtroom and in the lab. I encourage you to question things for yourself. Here is a link with many references on Full Moon studies and examples.
Jaye Ryan is a criminal defense attorney who is dedicated to obtaining the best possible outcome for each of her clients. She is an experienced, well-respected criminal defense attorney who earned her reputation through her trial preparation and examination of scientific evidence. Her office is in Martinez, CA and serves Richmond, Pittsburg, Orinda, and all of Contra Costa County.