Resources

Miscarriages of Justice, How Do They Happen?

Thursday, March 11, 3 PM with

North Hill Resident Stanley Z. Fisher Professor of Law Emeritus, Boston University

In the twenty-plus years since courts began accepting DNA test results into evidence, many wrongfully convicted prisoners have been exonerated.  A discussion of some systemic causes of such miscarriages, and the obstacles to reform.

About Professor Fisher:

After starting out teaching law in Ethiopia, where his book Ethiopian Criminal Procedure still serves as major teaching text, Stanley Fisher came to Boston University in 1968. On sabbatical leaves, he practiced in the Boston area as a juvenile defender, a prosecutor and a public defender. These experiences provided the foundation for his teaching and research interests: prosecutorial ethics and miscarriages of justice. He has been particularly concerned with the effect of faulty eyewitness identification procedures and of police and prosecution suppression of exculpatory evidence on wrongful convictions.

“The DNA exonerations of more than 300 prisoners and the similar rash of exonerations of innocent men and women on America’s death rows have forced us to question our faith in the reliability of criminal convictions in our system,” he says. In 2000, Professor Fisher helped found the New England Innocence Project, on whose board he served as trustee. NEIP uses law students and criminal defense lawyers to investigate and litigate claims of innocence by prisoners who might be exonerated by DNA testing. BU Law students have worked on NEIP cases as summer interns or under Professor Fisher’s supervision when enrolled in his Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

Widely published in the field of criminal procedure, Professor Fisher also has studied the criminal justice system in Great Britain. In April, 2002, the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment used his British research in framing recommendations for fundamental reform of police and prosecutorial conduct of investigations. At BU Law, Professor Fisher, who also has co-edited Massachusetts Criminal Practice, has taught courses in criminal procedure, criminal law and wrongful convictions. “I have been committed to teaching in the Criminal Clinic, as well, because I think it’s important that students learn through experience,” he says. In 2003, the Massachusetts public defender agency gave Professor Fisher the Thurgood Marshall Award for his service “as a champion of zealous defense of the poor.” In 2003-04, he taught law at the University of Asmara, in Eritrea.

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