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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Law and Psychology: Making a Murderer (Fall 2017)

  • Course Number: LAW-858
  • Class Number: 03606
  • Instructor: Dan Simon

Course Description

Course description, goals, and expectations:

Given the pressing societal need to punish criminal behavior and the solemn nature of depriving people of their liberty, the accuracy of the criminal justice process is of paramount importance.  This course examines the difficulties that hinder the making of accurate factual findings.  We will apply psychological research to explain the performance of the people who operationalize the process—witnesses, investigators, attorneys, judges, and jurors.  Topics include: investigating crime, eyewitness identification, witness memory for criminal events, police interrogation, confessions, detection of deceit, and jury decision-making. Special attention will be devoted to discrepancies between how human behavior is viewed from the legal and the psychological perspectives.  The course will help understand why we occasionally convict innocent people and acquit the guilty, and what can be done to enhance the accuracy of the process.

Description: This class applies experimental psychological research to explain the performance of the criminal process.  It explores why we occasionally convict innocent people and acquit the guilty.

Course Objectives:

The primary objective of this course is to expose students to the contribution of experimental psychology towards a better understanding of the criminal process.  

4-credit option: This option will require submitting a substantial paper in lieu of the exam and offering an in-class presentation; early drafts must be submitted (and will receive comments and suggestions).  Must have instructor approval to enroll.

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 4
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: M 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
  • Room Number: Room 12
  • Exam: Substantial paper and presentation
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: No
  • Participation: Points will be awarded
  • Enrollment Limitation: 4 students