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FJI Author Series: “Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice”
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 | 1:00pm - 3:00pm UTC
A Discussion with the Author, Professor Adam Benforado
An audio recording of the talk Professor Benforado gave at the Social Law Library (not the round table discussion held for judges) is available – click here to listen. Please note, you must be signed in to listen to this recording.
From the Publisher: “A child is gunned down by a police officer; an investigator ignores critical clues in a case; an innocent man confesses to a crime he did not commit; a jury acquits a killer. The evidence is all around us: Our system of justice is fundamentally broken.
But it’s not for the reasons we tend to think, as law professor Adam Benforado argues in this eye-opening, galvanizing book. Even if the system operated exactly as it was designed to, we would still end up with wrongful convictions, trampled rights, and unequal treatment. This is because the roots of injustice lie not inside the dark hearts of racist police officers or dishonest prosecutors, but within the minds of each and every one of us.
This is difficult to accept. Our nation is founded on the idea that the law is impartial, that legal cases are won or lost on the basis of evidence, careful reasoning and nuanced argument. But they may, in fact, turn on the camera angle of a defendant’s taped confession, the number of photos in a mug shot book, or a simple word choice during a cross-examination. In Unfair, Benforado shines a light on this troubling new field of research, showing, for example, that people with certain facial features receive longer sentences and that judges are far more likely to grant parole first thing in the morning.
Over the last two decades, psychologists and neuroscientists have uncovered many cognitive forces that operate beyond our conscious awareness. Until we address these hidden biases head-on, Benforado argues, the social inequality we see now will only widen, as powerful players and institutions find ways to exploit the weaknesses of our legal system.
Weaving together historical examples, scientific studies, and compelling court cases—from the border collie put on trial in Kentucky to the five teenagers who falsely confessed in the Central Park Jogger case—Benforado shows how our judicial processes fail to uphold our values and protect society’s weakest members. With clarity and passion, he lays out the scope of the legal system’s dysfunction and proposes a wealth of practical reforms that could prevent injustice and help us achieve true fairness and equality before the law.”
Adam Benforado, is an associate professor of law at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law. His principal interest is in applying insights from the mind sciences — most notably cognitive psychology — to law and legal theory. He is particularly focused on issues arising in criminal law, corporate law and contract law.
Professor Benforado received his JD from Harvard Law School and was a Frank Knox Fellow and Visiting Scholar with the Cambridge University Faculty of Law. He clerked for Judge Judith Rogers on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Professor Benforado also worked at Jenner & Block, LLP in Washington, D.C., where he handled trial and appellate litigation matters.
Professor Benforado’s op-eds, essays and letters have appeared in a variety of publications including the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Providence Journal, Baltimore Sun, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Legal Times and Boston Review.