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Geometry in Court

In real life, math can be relevant in the courtroom or come up in legal disputes.

Last year, the Pythagorean theorem was a deciding factor in a case before the New York State Court of Appeals. A man named James Robbins was convicted of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school. In the appeal, his lawyers argued that Robbins wasn't actually within the required distance when caught and so should not get the stiffer penalty that school proximity calls for.

The arrest occurred on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 40th Street in Manhattan. The nearest school, Holy Cross, is on 43rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

Law enforcement officials applied the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the straight-line distance between the two points. They measured the distance up Eighth Avenue (764 feet) and the distance to the church along 43rd Street (490 feet), using the data to find the length of the hypotenuse, 907.63 feet.

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