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Adams Center Lecturer to Examine Wrongful Convictions and Their Causes

Published on March 24, 2014

Internationally recognized researcher Richard A. Leo will present a lecture on wrongful convictions as part of Susquehanna University’s Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society lecture series. Richard A. LeoThe free, public address will begin at 7 p.m. April 2 in Stretansky Concert Hall of the Cunningham Center for Music and Art.

Leo is widely recognized for his pioneering empirical research on police interrogation practices, the impact of the Miranda rule, psychological coercion, false confessions and wrongful convictions. He is currently serving a one-year appointment as visiting professor of law at UCLA School of Law. Following this appointment, he will return to the University of San Francisco School of Law as a professor and Dean’s Circle Research Scholar. Leo is also a fellow in the Institute for Legal Research at UC Berkeley School of Law. He was previously a tenured professor of psychology and criminology at UC Irvine, and a professor of sociology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Over the past two decades, hundreds of convicted prisoners have been exonerated by DNA and non-DNA evidence alike, revealing that police-induced false confessions are a leading cause of wrongful conviction in the American criminal justice system. During his address, Leo will explain the errors that typically lead to facially persuasive but completely false confessions in criminal cases. He’ll discuss the psychology of police interrogation, and examine the empirical research on the consequences of introducing false-confession evidence into the criminal justice system.

More generally, Leo will talk about the various sources of error in the criminal justice system, including eyewitness misidentification, perjured informant testimony, and forensic error and fraud. He’ll also present the most important policy reforms designed to reduce the frequency of wrongful convictions.

Leo has worked on criminal cases in the appellate courts and U. S. Supreme Court. He has presented his work to lawyers, judges, police, forensic psychologists and other criminal justice professionals. He is the recipient of the William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Social Problems, the Saleem Shah Career Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, the Paul Tappam Award from the Western Society of Criminology, and the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology. He has published six books and more than 80 articles in leading legal and social science journals. He was also featured in a New Yorker magazine article and PBS “Frontline” documentary on the freeing of four innocent prisoners in Virginia, known as the “Norfolk 4.”

In addition to his public lecture, Leo will visit a Punishment and Society class taught by Michael Smyth, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Adams Center, and conduct a Q&A session with students and faculty on April 3.

The Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society at Susquehanna University was established in 2001 by the family of Sigfried and Janet Weis and The Degenstein Foundation of Sunbury, Pa., with support from the Annenberg Foundation. The center is named in honor of prominent Philadelphia jurist Arlin M. Adams, whose distinguished legal career includes 17 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The Adams Center exposes and explores the rich intersections between law and the various other disciplines in our society which surface in contemporary thought. It provides a forum and research opportunities for examination of issues impacting human rights and social responsibility, involving science and technology, and requiring constitutional interpretation.

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