Current Research Projects

History of the American Innocence Movement

Over the past decade, the criminal justice system has been transformed by wrongful convictions. More than 2,100 people have been set free in recent decades after being convicted of crimes they did not commit. In response to these exonerations, federal and state governments have passed laws to prevent and redress such injustices; lawyers and police have changed their practices; and advocacy organizations have multiplied across the country. Together, these activities are often referred to as the “innocence movement.” This research explores the history of this movement through interviews with key leaders, as well as archival and field research.

Wrongful Convictions and Public Opinion (with Kevin Mullinix and Bryan Gertz)

The growth of the innocence movement has coincided with a sharp decrease in the use of and support for the death penalty across the United States. Many scholars and advocates have suggested that the former was the driving force behind the latter, but little empirical research actually tests this relationship. This project uses a series of experimental surveys to assess whether information about wrongful convictions, presented in various forms, has an impact in support for capital punishment and other beliefs about the justice system.

Race and Perceptions of Police (with Kevin Mullinix)

The relationship between race and policing has long been the subject of empirical research, but recent events have reignited discussions about the relationship between law enforcement and communities. This research explores the attributions of racial disparities in the justice system among the public, as well as the impact of information about racial disparities on the public’s trust in police.

Behavioral Ethics and Wrongful Convictions (with Catherine Bonventre and Matthew Sciascia)

Many wrongful convictions have been attributed to misconduct by police and prosecutors. Rather than place blame on individual actors for their contributions to miscarriages of justice, this research explores the conditions under which well-intentioned officials sometimes lapse into unethical conduct by applying the behavioral ethics framework, which has been used to examine corporate scandals. Through a series of case studies, we seek to uncover the individual and organizational factors that may lead to unethical behaviors in ways that generate wrongful convictions.

Police Culture, Officer Characteristics, and Criminal Interrogations (with Jeanee Miller)

Scholars have long-argued that there exists a subculture within the policing profession. Furthermore, some have suggested that the more an officer adheres to this “police culture,” the more likely they are to exercise coercive authority. This research explores the impact of police culture in the context of criminal interrogations, and also assesses whether interrogation practices and perceptions are driven by individual, agency, or jurisdictional characteristics.

Restrictions on Feeding the Homeless in American Cities (with Christopher Dum and Kevin Weng)

A number of cities across the United States have taken legal actions to restrict the feeding of the homeless. This project critically examines these restrictions as acts of state harm, arguing that by criminalizing acts of benevolence, they may actually exacerbate social injustice, rather than alleviate it.

 

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