Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Preventing Wrongful Convictions

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Preventing Wrongful Convictions
LAW 3980
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This is a unique course in the Faculty of Law as it is co-taught by Professor Michelle Bertrand, University of Winnipeg, Criminal Justice Department and Professor David Ireland, University of Manitoba, Faculty of Law. We use an interdisciplinary lens to examine the issue of wrongful convictions in Canada. A combination of legal and social-science perspectives and readings are used to identify how and why wrongful convictions take place and to examine the evidence-based remedies to reduce their likelihood. Topics include: Eyewitness memory; false confessions; the role of plea-bargaining in wrongful convictions; forensic science evidence; and cognitive bias.

As well as attending lectures and completing coursework assignments, the law students enrolled in the course will also work in the Robson Hall Innocence Clinic under the supervision of Professor Ireland. This component of the course is worth thirty five percent of the letter grade and will involve a great deal of independent work (around 10 hours per week). Students must be prepared to put significant time into reading case files, analyzing materials and developing investigatory strategies for the files. Working in the Innocence Clinic provides students with an in-depth and real-world experience of: the environmental factors that can lead to wrongful convictions; client interview strategies and ethical guidelines; the federal post-conviction review process; drafting legal documents; forensic analysis and testing; and legal research skills.

Enrollment from Robson Hall is limited to eight third-year law students. Each law student must have successfully completed the Preventing Wrongful Convictions seminar course (LAW 3828) before starting this course.

The course is taught through a combination of lectures from the course instructors, legal practitioners, scientists and criminal justice professionals. The emphasis will always be on participatory engagement and experiential learning.

Seminar co-presentation 30%
Case co-analysis 20%
Discussion questions 5% (total)
Blog post for RobsonCrim (1,000 words) 10%
Major paper (Criminal Justice students only) 35%
Robson Hall Innocence Clinic Lab (Law students only) 35%

Readings will be assigned throughout the course. There is no required text.