February 10, 2009

Syllabus, November 10, 2009

Download file

February 5, 2009

"Science Found Wanting in Nation's Crime Labs"

This article appeared in this morning's New York Times.It's right on point with our last class so I thought I'd pass the link to it along to you. Here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/05/us/05forensics.html?th&emc=th

February 3, 2009

Study Guide for "What Jennifer Saw"

Find and study the point made about eyewitness identification in the quotes below. I'll select from these the video questions on Exam 1. You can download the video transcript by clicking on the video title in your downloaded syllabus.

Jennifer Thompson,
1. "The photos were individual type of...
2. "When I picked him out in the physical lineup..."
3. "I never remember looking at Bobby Poole, thinking..."
4. "After I picked it out, they looked at me..."
5. "I have to accept the answer that's been given..."

Rich Rosen, all quotes

Reed Hunt, all quotes

Janet Reno, "When you look at the cases..."

Elizabeth Loftus, all quotes

February 2, 2009

Opening UM e-journal articles

Here are instructions for opening the reading for February 3, "Whose Side Are We On." It's also a template for opening all the e-journal reading assignment articles.

1. Open your downloaded syllabus.
2. Click on title “Whose Side Are We On??
3. Enter “Social Problems?
3. Click “GO?
4. Click “Social Problems?
5. Click “Full Text available via JSTOR…?
6. Click “1960-1969 (Vols 7-17)?
7. Click “1967 (Vol 14), No. 3?
8. Scroll down to “Whose Side Are We On?
9. Click “PDF?

January 27, 2009

Writing Assignments, email

From now on, you can submit all writing assignments by email attachment. Here are the rules for email submissions:

1. Destination. Email the assignments to your TA, NOT to me.
2. Class Reaction (CR) assignments. Your TA has to receive your assignment by 10pm of the date of the class you're reacting to.
2. All other assignments. Your TA has to receive your assignment by the time it's due. For example, if the assignment is due at the beginning of class, it has to arrive in your TAs email box by 945 on the date it's due.

January 26, 2009

Wrogful Convictions, The Innocence Project, January 26, 2009

Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations
The Innocence Project, January 26, 2009

There have been 232 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.

• The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 33 states; since 2000, there have been 167 exonerations.

• 17 of the 232 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.

• The average length of time served by exonerees is 12 years. The total number of years served is approximately 2,894.

• The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 26.

Races of the 232 exonerees:

138 African Americans
64 Caucasians
20 Latinos
1 Asian American
9 whose race is unknown

• The true suspects and/or perpetrators have been identified in 90 of the DNA exoneration cases.

• Since 1989, there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were identified and pursued—until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that they were wrongly accused.

• In more than 25 percent of cases in a National Institute of Justice study, suspects were excluded once DNA testing was conducted during the criminal investigation (the study, conducted in 1995, included 10,060 cases where testing was performed by FBI labs).

• About half of the people exonerated through DNA testing have been financially compensated. 25 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia have passed laws to compensate people who were wrongfully incarcerated. Awards under these statutes vary from state to state.

• 33 percent of cases closed by the Innocence Project were closed because of lost or missing evidence.

Leading Causes of Wrongful Convictions
These DNA exoneration cases have provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events, but arise from systemic defects that can be precisely identified and addressed. For more than 15 years, the Innocence Project has worked to pinpoint these trends.

Eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in 77 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., making it the leading cause of these wrongful convictions. Of that 77 percent, about 40 percent of cases where race is known involved cross-racial eyewitness identification. Studies have shown that people are less able to recognize faces of a different race than their own. These suggested reforms are embraced by leading criminal justice organizations and have been adopted in the states of New Jersey and North Carolina, large cities like Minneapolis and Seattle, and many smaller jurisdictions.

Limited, unreliable or fraudulent forensic science has played a role in 65 percent of wrongful convictions.
In over half of DNA exonerations, the misapplication of forensic disciplines—such as blood type testing, hair analysis, fingerprint analysis, bite mark analysis, and more—has played a role in convicting the innocent. In some cases, forensic scientists and prosecutors presented fraudulent, exaggerated, or otherwise tainted evidence to the judge or jury which led to the wrongful conviction. Three cases have even involved erroneous testimony about DNA test results.

False confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in 25 percent of cases. More than 500 jurisdictions now record interrogations to prevent false confessions.

False confessions are another leading cause of wrongful convictions. Twenty-five percent of cases involve a false confession or incriminating statement made by the defendant. In 35 percent of those cases, the defendant was 18 years old or younger and/or developmentally disabled. The Innocence Project encourages police departments to electronically record all custodial interrogations in their entirety in order to prevent coercion and to provide an accurate record of the proceedings. More than 500 jurisdictions have voluntarily adopted policies to record interrogations. State supreme courts have taken action in Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia require the taping of interrogations in homicide cases.

Snitches contributed to wrongful convictions in 15 percent of cases.
Another principal factor in wrongful convictions is the use of snitches, or jailhouse informants. Whenever snitch testimony is used, the Innocence Project recommends that the judge instruct the jury that most snitch testimony is unreliable as it may be offered in return for deals, special treatment, or the dropping of charges. Prosecutors should also reveal any incentive the snitch might receive, and all communication between prosecutors and snitches should be recorded. Fifteen percent of wrongful convictions that were later overturned by DNA testing were caused in part by snitch testimony.

January 25, 2009

"Dig Deeper" (DD) assignments

I apologize for the confusion in the syllabus regarding the DD assignments. Here are the corrected instructions which should clarify the confusion. I've also corrected the instructions on the syllabus and posted the corrected syllabus.

“Dig Deeper? (DD) Assignment (600 word limit) = 200 points
Complete one of the “Dig Deeper? (see Lincoln Steffens excerpt on “digging deeper?) assignment from the seven described in the “Schedule of Classes and Assignments, ? on January 22, January 27, February 17, February 26, March 10, April 7, April 28, April 30, May 7.

1. Answer the specific questions about the DD assignment you choose to complete.
2. Submit your DD assignment before class begins on the day the assignment appears on the "Schedule of Classes and Assignments." You can submit your essay by email attachment as long as your TA receives it before class begins on the date it’s due.
3. Include the following information at the top of the assignment: (1) DD; (2) date; (c) your name.

There’s no credit for cutting and pasting, except for brief specific quotes and/or graphics. You can earn bonus points for this assignment, if it demonstrates special quality and depth of detail and analysis; is logically presented; and written in simple, clear, direct prose. The number of bonus points, if any, is totally within your TA’s discretion.

Jennifer's Story

Download "Jennifer's Story

If you can't--or don't want to--download the file, here it is:

‘I Was Certain, but I Was Wrong’

In 1984 I was a 22-year-old college student with a grade point average of 4.0, and I really wanted to do something with my life. One night someone broke into my apartment, put a knife to my throat and raped me. During my ordeal, some of my determination took an urgent new direction. I studied every single detail on the rapist’s face. I looked at his hairline; I looked for scars, for tattoos, for anything that would help me identify him. When and if I survived the attack, I was going to make sure that he was put in prison and he was going to rot.

When I went to the police department later that day, I worked on a composite sketch to the very best of my ability. I looked through hundreds of noses and eyes and eyebrows and hairlines and nostrils and lips. Several days later, looking at a series of police photos, I identified my attacker. I knew this was the man. I was completely confident. I was sure. I picked the same man in a lineup. Again, I was sure. I knew it. I had picked the right guy, and he was going to go to jail. If there was the possibility of a death sentence, I wanted him to die. I wanted to flip the switch.

When the case went to trial in 1986, I stood up on the stand, put my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth. Based on my testimony, Ronald Junior Cotton was sentenced to prison for life. It was the happiest day of my life because I could begin to put it all behind me.

In 1987, the case was retried because an appellate court had overturned Ronald Cotton’s conviction. During a pretrial hearing, I learned that another man had supposedly claimed to be my attacker and was bragging about it in the same prison wing where Ronald Cotton was being held. This man, Bobby Poole, was brought into court, and I was asked, “Ms. Thompson, have you ever seen this man?�? I answered: “I have never seen him in my life. I have no idea who he is.�? Ronald Cotton was sentenced again to two life sentences. Ronald Cotton was never going to see light; he was never going to get out; he was never going to hurt another woman; he was never going to rape another woman.

In 1995, 11 years after I had first identified Ronald Cotton, I was asked to provide a blood sample so that DNA tests could be run on evidence from the rape. I agreed because I knew that Ronald Cotton had raped me and DNA was only going to confirm that. The test would allow me to move on once and for all.

I will never forget the day I learned about the DNA results. I was standing in my kitchen when the detective and the district attorney visited. They were good and decent people who were trying to do their jobs—as I had done mine, as anyone would try to do the right thing. They told me: “Ronald Cotton didn’t rape you. It was Bobby Poole.�? The man I was so sure I had never seen in my life was the man who was inches from my throat, who raped me, who hurt me, who took my spirit away, who robbed me of my soul. And the man I had identified so emphatically on so many occasions was absolutely innocent.

Ronald Cotton was released from prison after serving 11 years. Bobby Poole pleaded guilty to raping me. Ronald Cotton and I are the same age, so I knew what he had missed during those 11 years. My life had gone on. I had gotten married. I had graduated from college. I worked. I was a parent. Ronald Cotton hadn’t gotten to do any of that.

Mr. Cotton and I have now crossed the boundaries of both the terrible way we came together and our racial difference (he is black and I am white) and have become friends. Although he is now moving on with his own life, I live with constant anguish that my profound mistake cost him so dearly. I cannot begin to imagine what would have happened had my mistaken identification occurred in a capital case.

Today there is a man in Texas named Gary Graham who is about to be executed because one witness is confident that Mr. Graham is the killer she saw from 30 to 40 feet away. This woman saw the murderer for only a fraction of the time that I saw the man who raped me. Several other witnesses contradict her, but the jury that convicted Mr. Graham never heard any of the conflicting testimony.

If anything good can come out of what Ronald Cotton suffered because of my limitations as a human being, let it be an awareness of the fact that eyewitnesses can and do make mistakes. I have now had occasion to study this subject a bit, and I have come to realize that eyewitness error has been recognized as the leading cause of wrongful convictions. One witness is not enough, especially when her story is contradicted by other good people.

Last week, I traveled to Houston to beg Gov. George W. Bush and his parole board not to execute Gary Graham based on this kind of evidence. I have never before spoken out on behalf of any inmate. I stood with a group of 11 men and women who had been convicted based on mistaken eyewitness testimony, only to be exonerated later by DNA or other evidence. With them, I urged the Texas officials to grant Gary Graham a new trial, so that the eyewitnesses who are so sure that he is innocent can at long last be heard.

I know that there is an eyewitness who is absolutely positive she saw Gary Graham commit murder. But she cannot possibly be any more positive than I was about Ronald Cotton. What if she is dead wrong?

Jennifer Thompson is a homemaker in North Carolina and does volunteer work with abused children.

Study Guide for "The Justice System"

Study Guide

1. Who initiates the response to crime?

2. List four sources for law enforcement learning about crimes?

3. Describe the elements of each of the following steps in the criminal justice process:
a. entry into the system
b. prosecution and pretrial services
c. adjudication
d sentencing and sanctions
e. corrections

4. Identify the decisions that the following criminal justice officials have to decide. The number in parentheses refers to how many decisions each official has the power to make:
a. Police (4)
b. Prosecutors (4)
c. Judges/magistrates (6)
d. Corrections officials (3)
e. Parole authorities (2)

Criminal Justice "Frames"

1. Faulty Criminal Justice System Frame
People commit crimes because they know they can get away with them the police are handcuffed by “soft on crime? judges. The prisons are revolving doors. The only way to ensure public safety is to increase the speed, certainty, and severity of punishment. Loopholes and technicalities that interfere with the apprehension and imprisonment of offenders has to be eliminated, and funding for police, courts, and prisons has to be increased. The faulty system frame is symbolically represented by the convicted, repeat rapist or by the image of inmates passing through a revolving door on a prison.

2. Blocked Opportunities Frame
Crime is a consequence of inequality and discrimination, especially in unemployment, poverty, and education. People commit crimes when they discover that the legitimate means for attaining material success are blocked. Unemployment, ignorance, disease, filth, poor housing, congestion, and discrimination all contribute to a crime wave that is sweeping our nation. “If you’re going to create a sink-or-swim society, you have to expect people to thrash before they go down,? is an example of a claim associated with the blocked opportunity frame. To reduce crime, government has to improve the social conditions that cause it. Examples of blocked opportunities include dead-end jobs held by inner-city youth, such as flipping burgers at McDonald's.

3. Social Breakdown Frame
Crime is a consequence of family and community disintegration, skyrocketing rates of divorce, and out-of-wedlock births. One version of social breakdown attributes family and community breakdown to “permissiveness,? like government-sponsored welfare. Another version attributes family and community breakdown to unemployment, racial discrimination, and the loss of jobs and income. According to this version, “In America’s toughest neighborhoods, meanest streets, and poorest rural areas, we have seen a stunning breakdown of community, family and work at the heart and soul of civilized society. This has created a vast vacuum into which violence, drugs and gangs have moved.?

4. Racist System Frame
The courts and police are racist agents of oppression. Police resources are dedicated more to the protection of White neighborhoods than to reducing crime in Minority communities. Black offenders are more likely than Whites who commit comparable offenses to be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison. The death penalty is administered in a racist fashion. According to one claim, “We have in these United States lived under a dual system of justice, one for the White, one for the Black.?

5. Violent Media Frame
Crime and violence in society are due violence on television, in the movies, and in popular music. Violence in the mass media undermines respect for life. To reduce violence in society, we have to first reduce it in the mass media. “By the time the average child reaches age 18, he will have witnessed some 18,000 murders and countless highly detailed incidents of robbery, arson, bombings, shooting, beatings, forgery, smuggling and torture.? Violent media is not the most important source of our cultural violence, but it substantially contribute to violent crime.

January 24, 2009

Eyewitness Identification, Wells and Seelau

Download Wells and Seelau, Eyewitness Identification

Study guide for "Criminal Victimization 2007."

Read page one carefully, including Table 1. Then, note the bolded headings in the remaining pages.

"Unlocking America" Study Guide

"Unlocking America" study guide is now posted for downloading in "Study Aids."

Study Guide for "Unlocking America"

Download file

January 20, 2009

Criminal Justice System Flow Chart

Download flowchart