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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Law and Psychology: The Criminal Process (Fall 2019)

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

Course Description

This course is designed to examine a broad range of facets of the criminal justice process, with a particular focus on the capability of the process to reach accurate results.  In that vein, we will examine and employ experimental psychological research to understand the performance of detectives, witnesses, suspects, forensic scientists, prosecutors and jurors.  The body of research to be examined will span investigative psychology, eyewitness identification, deceit detection, interrogation, and jury decision making.  Based on this research, we will explore the susceptibility of the legal process to psychological factors that can result in erroneous testimony and judgments, whether leading to wrongful acquittals or wrongful convictions.  We will also explore a set of broader institutional issues pertaining to the criminal process and the professionals who operate it, focusing on the role of judges in fact-finding and post-conviction review, the function and responsibility of lawyers, the workings of the adversarial system, and the place of truth amidst all of this.  Finally, the course will examine the function of the criminal process as a means of social regulation and control.  In particular, we will discuss how the criminal process interacts with the daily lives of people, especially the poor, members of lower social classes, and racial minorities. 

 

4-credit option: The course will be offered as a 3-credit elective for upper division law students.  The course will also be offered to up to 6 students who wish to write a paper (for a total of 4 credits).  This option requires prior approval of the instructor.  Interested students should submit a statement of their interest in the course (up to 2 pages long) and mail it to the instructor (at dsimon@law.usc.edu).   Decisions will be made on a rolling basis, starting from 1 week after the start of the registration period.

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 4
  • Grading Options: Numerical or CR/D/F
  • Exam: Paper
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: No
  • Enrollment Limitation: 6 students