Wrongful Convictions



America is engaged in a national conversation about its justice system and how to fix it. Wrongful convictions, once thought to be rare, are now understood to be a serious and pervasive nationwide problem. This course will explore the issue of wrongful convictions, from causes to cures. We will study real cases, articles both scholarly and popular, and primary sources including police reports and trial transcripts to examine the causes of wrongful convictions, such as eyewitness misidentification, police and prosecutorial misconduct, faulty forensic evidence, and ineffective assistance of defense counsel. We will look at false confessions and how they occur. We will delve deeply into how the system breaks down based on bias, structural racism, tunnel vision and a win-at-all-costs culture in some prosecuting agencies. Then we will look at the Innocence Movement, and how post-conviction lawyers evaluate, investigate, and litigate wrongful convictions to bring them back to court and free the innocent. Prerequisite: Criminal Law (130 or 131).