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Showing posts from February, 2018

How good is an alibi, anyway?

Bad news: the police have brought you in for questioning in a recent murder. The good news, though, is that you didn’t commit the murder! So all you have to do to clear your name is give the police your alibi, right? Not so fast. Can you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when the crime was committed? What can you give the police to prove you’re telling the truth? Are your alibi and the evidence supporting it going to be able to convince someone on a jury? Actually, this is going to be more difficult than you thought. Using an alibi to defend yourself is based on at least two different psychological elements; first, you have to rely on your memory to construct a story of what you were doing. Second, that story has to be believable. That is, you need to supply proof that will convince other people. If you fail at either of these steps, such as by misremembering or not remembering what you were doing or by relying only on a family member to corroborate you

Let's talk about the decision to uphold Brendan Dassey's conviction

In this chat format, we gather regular authors and guests in Slack and have a moderated conversation, guided by prompts and questions selected in advance. Participants get to respond to each other's points, make comments, and ask each other questions in real-time. The transcript has been lightly edited. Will Crozier &#x1F419 Welcome to the inaugural chat of An Exercise in Exceptions ! In this format, we'll have a conversation about a topic, rather than writing a typical blog post. We'll call in some guests that can contribute something unique to the conversation, and get their thoughts to explore some topic, issue, or question. Today's topic: Brendan Dasseys' confession and the 7th Circuit Court's decision to uphold Dassey's conviction. But before we get into that, let's introduce ourselves. Timothy and I have our bio pages up on the website, so first-time readers can check out those. Today, we're joined by Fabiana

Interrogation, coercion, and false confessions: The case of Brendan Dassey

In December 2015, Netflix brought the justice system to the forefront of the public consciousness with its award-winning documentary Making a Murderer . The 10-episode serialization followed the story of Steven Avery – a Wisconsin man who was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1985, spent 18 years in prison before being exonerated, and was then arrested and ultimately convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005. While the documentary focuses primarily on Steven Avery as the main suspect, Making a Murderer also highlighted a lesser-known element of the case: the confession and conviction of Brendan Dassey, Avery’s nephew. Although there’s a lot to analyze in this case, we focus here on a nagging question – did Brendan Dassey give a false confession? Dassey’s involvement in the case was little understood until Netflix’s deep dive into the case, but has emerged as one of the most scrutinized and tragic elements. Briefly, the police focused on Avery as a suspect in the disappe

An exercise in introductions

The legal system is a source of endless fascination. Crime novels, cop shows, procedural dramas – while fiction, all depict the process by which society punishes the bad guys and protects the innocent. Of course, we need not always turn to fiction to be pulled in by compelling stories of crime and legal processes. Real life cases, reported on by the news, true-crime shows, and increasingly deep-dive documentaries, books, and podcasts can be as engaging as the fictional cases. There exist many parts of the justice system that we are drawn to, spanning from how people can commit crimes, to how crimes are investigated, to what happens in trial. But how much do we, as society, truly understand the legal process we have devised to protect and serve us? We often imagine the legal system is made up of rules, regulations, procedures, and a dash of forensic science to make sure that justice is fair. However, in many cases, the design of the legal system is based on weak evidence and harmful mi