Wrongful Convictions and the US Criminal Justice System (S)

LAW JD 837

The past two decades have witnessed an unprecedented surge in the freeing from our nations jails and prisons of innocent people who were wrongfully convicted. Many have served lengthy sentences and some have spent years on death row awaiting execution for crimes they did not commit. This course will examine the broad range of factors that contribute to the wrongful conviction of the innocent and, in doing so, will shed light on broader questions about the functioning of the US criminal justice system. We will explore the role played by faulty eyewitness-identification procedures; coercive and deceptive police interrogation procedures; the mishandling of confidential informants, cooperating witnesses, and jailhouse snitches; junk science, disorganized crime labs, and incompetent and corrupt experts; police and prosecutorial failures to preserve & disclose exculpatory evidence; and incompetent defense counsel and underfunded criminal-defense-delivery systems. We will also examine the role of racial and ethnic bias, profiling, and tunnel vision, before considering how wrongful convictions affect the debate over the death penalty. We will look the use of postconviction procedures such as appeals, new-trial motions, and habeas corpus petitions, to free the wrongfully convicted. Finally, we will explore some of the reforms that have been proposed and some of the critiques -- from both the left and the right -- of the innocence movement, with its reliance on DNA technologies, and its narrow focus on the "wrong-man" notion of the "factually innocent." Films, case studies, and guest speakers will help ground our discussion in concrete examples. LIMITED WRITING REQUIREMENT OPTION: A limited number of students may be permitted to satisfy the upper-class writing requirement with the approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. ENROLLMENT LIMIT: 15 students. OFFERING PATTERN: This class is frequently offered in alternating years. Students are advised to take this into account when planning their long-term schedule. **A student who fails to attend the initial meeting of a seminar (designated by an (S) in the title), or to obtain permission to be absent from either the instructor or the Registrar, may be administratively dropped from the seminar. Students who are on a wait list for a seminar are required to attend the first seminar meeting to be considered for enrollment.

SPRG 2016 Schedule

Section Instructor Location Schedule Notes
A1 TBA T 6:30 pm-9:30 pm Stamped Approval

Note that this information may change at any time. Please visit the Student Link for the most up-to-date course information.