This seminar will address the way in which legal institutions define and detect dishonesty. We will first discuss what many are calling “post-truth” discourse and the seeming suspension of fact-finding and truth-seeking in some arenas of public life. Investigations and trials retain the aspiration to identify facts on the ground and prompt honest statements. Accordingly, we will explore the “law of questioning” that governs legal truth-seeking and consider where it succeeds and fails. Our particular focus will be on the criminal justice process, and topics will include interrogation practices, the problem of false confessions, liability for dishonest statements in investigations and testimony, cross examination, character and credibility, and lie detection in the laboratory, courtroom, and popular culture. Readings will range widely 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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