This seminar will address the way in which legal institutions define and detect dishonesty. We will first discuss what is sometimes called “post-truth” discourse and the seeming suspension of fact-finding and truth-seeking in public life. The criminal justice system is both a natural habitat for dishonesty and the place where achieving accuracy is most important. Accordingly, we will use the context of investigations and trials to explore some larger themes about establishing factual baselines despite intense conflict. Topics will include liability for dishonest statements in investigations and testimony, interrogation practices, the problem of false confessions, incentivized witnesses, character and credibility, cross examination, storytelling at trial, and lie detection in the laboratory, courtroom, and popular culture. Readings will be posted on line and will include excerpts from law review articles and scholarly books, works of social science, investigative reporting, documentary footage, editorial commentary, and popular culture. The one-credit class will meet roughly every other Wednesday during the spring semester. There will be short writing assignments, and students will receive feedback on both written expression and class participation. Students who plan significant research projects on related topics may register for a second credit.
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