Week 1: The wrongly convicted person: Setting the foundation
We will examine the causes of wrongful convictions as they played out in David McCallum’s case and why it took years of struggle to overturn an obvious injustice. We will meet Mr. McCallum and question him about his ordeal and his life after prison. We will look at the role played by film and other media in freeing David and others. (TVO’s “David & Me”) (TED Talk: Ron Sullivan)
Guests: David McCallum of Brooklyn, NY, freed in 2014 after 29 years; Ray Klonsky, filmmaker
Week 2: The Innocence Project and the legacy of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
An exchange of ideas focusing on truth, justice, and the law and how these ideals play out in the legal system. We will look at the machinery of criminal justice (e.g. arrest, arraignment, plea bargains, trial, sentencing, parole, exoneration) and become familiar with the vital role of an innocence project.
Guest: Tamara Levy, UBC Innocence Project
Week 3: False confessions
Why do people admit to crimes they have not committed? Case study: Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay and the RCMP’s Mr. Big sting operation. (Netflix’s “The Confession Tapes: Parts 1 and 2, ‘True East’).
Guests: Atif Rafay, West Vancouver, wrongly convicted in 2004, still in prison; Steve Drizin, Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University
Week 4: Forensic science
How do we distinguish between scientifically gathered evidence and “junk science”? What is the role of courtroom experts? How effective is the use of DNA in righting wrongful convictions? What are the uses and limitations of lie detectors and MRI’s. How credible are eyewitnesses and behavioural assessments? What can autopsies tell us about a crime? (Forensic Files: “All Butt Certain”)
Guest: Greg Hampikian, Boise State University
Week 5: Police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges
How do street and courtroom interactions produce wrongful convictions? What role is played by racism, prosecutorial misconduct and human error? What is “tunnel vision” and why does it occur? What is the role of conviction review units? What difficulties are faced by pro bono lawyers when representing the wrongly convicted?
Guest: Oscar Michelen, attorney, Cuomo LLC, New York
Week 6: Family
The David Milgaard case highlights the difficulty of sustaining relationships on the outside with incarcerated people and the obstacles faced by exonerated people re-entering the world. How can the needs of the victims of crime or bereaved family members be balanced against the needs of the wrongly convicted person?
Guests: David Milgaard, Sarah Isaacs, Loretta Fisher and David Lord.