Category Archives: Criminal Law

The Psychology of Wrongful Convictions

New videos on the psychology of wrongful convictions, a topic we have covered before, have been released by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Innocence Project.  The announcement states:

“Law enforcement officials are human and are susceptible to the same psychological phenomena that can adversely affect decision-making,” said Paul M. Cell, president of the IACP. “We are excited to be partnering with innocence organizations to make these videos available because education and training are critical to ensuring that these phenomena don’t adversely affect investigations.”

Three of the videos, on confirmation bias, tunnel vision and implicit bias, may be of particular interest to readers of this blog.

(update: 12/11/18: For a prior post on the psychology of wrongful convictions, see here).



DOJ and Implicit Bias

Implicit Bias.jpgAs readers of this blog may know, there is a wealth of research on how implicit bias can influence judgment and behavior (for example, my co-blogger Molly Wilson has discussed implicit bias in the context of Batson challenges, here). One area where implicit bias has received extensive attention relates to the prosecution (and defense) of crime. That’s why the United States Department of Justice’s recent announcement that all DOJ employees will receive training on implicit bias is such as important step.  As Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated in announcing the initiative:

“Our officers are more effective and our communities are more secure when law enforcement has the tools and training they need to address today’s public safety challenges . . . At the Department of Justice, we are committed to ensuring that our own personnel are well trained in the core principles and best practices of community policing. Today’s announcement is an important step in our ongoing efforts to promote fairness, eliminate bias and build the stronger, safer, more just society that all Americans deserve.”

For those wanting more resources on the role of implicit bias on judgment and decision-making, a large body of information is available, including at the American Bar Association’s website (which includes this excellent video on the neuroscience of implicit bias) and this list of resources created by Professor Kimberly Norwood from Washington University School of Law.

Behavioral Ethics and Criminal Defense Lawyers

6ACTwo cross-postings for anyone interested in the intersection of behavioral ethics and the work of criminal defense lawyers:


(1) On the Sixth Amendment Center’s website, Executive Director David Carroll posted this question and answer session regarding my article, Prescriptions for Ethical Blindness: Improving Advocacy for Indigent Defendants in Criminal Cases.  The post also can be found at the National Association for Public Defense site.

(2) On The Continuing Duty, a site I host with my colleague David Siegel, I posted “The Strategic Use of ‘Bounded Ethicality’ in [Post Conviction Review] Proceedings.”  In it, I discuss two state judicial opinions that address research on behavioral ethics and my article, The Psychology of Conflicts of Interest in Criminal Cases, as part of the larger discussion of whether criminal defense lawyers can be objective in evaluating their own conflicts of interest.