Saturday, May 07, 2011

A New Phase in the Teaching of Fact Investigation - or An Old Dog Can Teach New Investigation Tricks

My course in fact investigation now moves into a different phase. This course, which I teach with Phil Segal, becomes a two-semester course next year. This is important because (i) more time can now be devoted to theory (in the first semester) and (ii) more time can be devoted (in the second semester) to gathering and packaging evidence so that (a) it will meet the legal requirements for admissibility in a forum such as a trial and (ii) it will be intelligible and as persuasive as possible to a trier of fact such as a judge or a jury.

As before, students in the course will conduct investigations of real-world matters. (There are no simulated investigation problems in our course.) However, some of the investigations in the second semester will lead to the preparation of public reports, reports that will be released to the public.

The topic of fact investigation is crucial for both philosophy and law. As every trial lawyer knows (or should know), fact investigation is crucial for successful litigation and advocacy. Furthermore, the study of fact investigation inevitably raises the question of how human beings manage to acquire knowledge about the world. In short, few topics are more fundamental than fact investigation!


The dynamic evidence page
It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Meaning(s) of "Exoneration"

The Innocence Projects do God's work -- but I have long thought that the Projects use the word "exoneration" much too loosely and thereby frequently claim far more than the evidence shows. Cf., e.g., parts of my blog posts

Saturday, November 12, 2005

When Chances Collide; DNA & "Exoneration"; Suggestibility & Gullibility at


Tuesday, August 27, 2002

DNA in the News: Imperfect Evidence and Imperfect Justice, at
new article by Keith A. Findley apparently makes an analogous point. But Findley draws a starkly different moral than I do: He thinks the Innocence Projects define "exoneration" and "innocence" too narrowly rather than too broadly.

  • I think that some guilty people are wrongly convicted and that when we think that a wrongful conviction of a probably guilty person has been properly set aside, we should not refer to such an event as an "exoneration." We should call a spade a spade. We should say, simply, that the conviction was properly set aside, and we should not pretend (unless we have reason to think that such is the case) that an innocent person has been exonerated.
  • Under many circumstances, of course, the wrongful action (or inaction) of some public official makes it difficult or impossible to make a reasonable judgment about the guilt or innocence of some person. When that is the case, that is what we should say is the case.