We’ve seen the headlines. Two men, falsely convicted of rape and murder, freed last week after DNA evidence finally cleared them, after thirty-one years in prison. An unarmed teenager, shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. In these cases, and countless others, forensic science is front and center in the effort to reach justice. But do we expect too much from forensic science? How best to use forensics, a science that will always have a degree of uncertainty, to make life-or-death decisions? And when it comes to assigning culpability, are we ignoring the science of human psychology, which underlies the swirl of perceptions we rely on our brains to sort out?
The World Science Festival, in collaboration with the New York Hall of Science, invites you to join a provocative discussion about the shortcomings of our criminal justice system. Among the participants is Pulitzer prize winning journalist Jim Dwyer, author of “False Conviction: Innocence, Guilt & Science,” which vividly details the shortcomings of forensics with shocking examples of justice denied.
Join this fascinating conversation and be part of our “jury” as we test our audience’s powers of observation and analysis.
This program is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of its Public Understanding of Science and Technology Initiative. Presented in collaboration with the New York Hall of Science and in partnership with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Jami Floyd is an award-winning journalist and national television personality. She is the former anchor of Court TV’s Jami Floyd: Best Defense, a daily live show that tackled the day’s front-page legal stories. She has also served as a network correspondent and investigative reporter at various outlets, most notably ABC News. Floyd has been awarded the Gracie, Telly, Maggie and two Cine-Golden Eagle Awards for journalism. Before journalism, she worked as a White House Fellow in the Cinton Administration. Floyd also served as a teaching fellow at Stanford Law School while she pursued a masters degree and worked as a public defender in San Francisco.
Jim Dwyer is a columnist with The New York Times, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and a finalist for the National Book Award. He is the author or co-author of six books. His latest, False Conviction: Innocence, Guilt & Science is an electronic book using video, animations, and text to explore the science behind errors in criminal investigations. By playing interactive games, the reader sees how everyday mistakes turn into false convictions. He is also the author of the forthcoming More Awesome Than Money, which tells the true story of four boys who tried to save the world from Facebook. Dwyer appeared in the 2012 documentary film The Central Park Five.
Saul Kassin is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Kassin pioneered the scientific study of false confessions to help prevent and correct wrongful convictions. He created the first laboratory research methods used in forensic psychology to study the problems with certain types of police interrogation techniques and why innocent people confess. He has created insightful developments among research involving social perception and influence, and their applications to police interrogations and confessions, lie detection, eyewitness testimony, jury decision-making, and other aspects of law. He has testified as an expert witness in state, federal, and military courts. Kassin’s writings are cited all over the world.
Peter Neufeld, a nationally recognized civil-rights lawyer, has spent over thirty-five years trying cases on behalf of victims of police misconduct and wrongful convictions. These trials have led to numerous substantial verdicts and settlements and caused systemic criminal-justice reforms. Litigating civil-rights cases in trial and appellate courts nationwide, including the U.S. Supreme Court, he has pioneered key legal theories including the Fourth Circuit Fabricated Confession Theory. Neufeld, along with NSB partner Barry Scheck, co-found and co-directs the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. The Innocence Project has been responsible in whole or in part for exonerating most of the over 300 men and women to be cleared through post-conviction DNA testing. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and received his law degree from New York University School of Law.
Mechthild Prinz is currently an Associate Professor and the Director of the Master in Forensic Science Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. Prinz previously worked as a forensic geneticist and laboratory director performing, and later supervising, paternity and criminal casework for the Institute of Legal Medicine of the University of Cologne and the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in New York City. She has more than 20 years of experience in forensic DNA including low copy number DNA analysis and mass disaster victim identification. Prinz has an M.S. in Biology from the University of Cologne in Germany and a Ph.D. in Human Biology from the University of Ulm, also in Germany.
Eric Siegel leads the program, exhibition development, science and technology functions at the New York Hall of Science. He has been in senior roles in art and science museums for over 30 years and has published extensively in the museum field. He teaches on the graduate faculty of the New York University museum studies program and ITP media/arts program. As a consultant, he has worked with They Might Be Giants, NASA JPL and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is past president of the National Association for Museum Exhibitions; board member of SolarOne, an urban environmental organization in New York City; and past chairman of the Museums Council of New York City.
Ekow N. Yankah is a Professor of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Columbia University School of Law, and a post-graduate degree from Oxford University, where he was awarded a Lord Crewe Scholarship. Yankah’s scholarship explores the intersection of analytical jurisprudence, criminal law and political theory. He has been a distinguished visitor of the MacArthur Foundation. His current work explores republican theories of political obligation grounded in civic duty and its relationship to law generally and criminal law in particular. At Cardozo, Yankah serves as the faculty advisor for student organizations including the Cardozo Democrats, the Cardozo American Constitution Society student chapter, and the Unemployment Action Center. Yankah is a member of the Board of Directors at the Innocence Project.