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Unit (2019)

Information on this page, including unit offerings, is from the 2019 academic year.

Forensic Science and Miscarriages of Justice (BIO388)

Organisational Unit Medical, Molecular and Forensic Sciences
Credit Points 3
Availability MURDOCH: W-internal
Description This unit highlights the causes of investigator bias in forensic investigation. Groups of three or four students are assigned a criminal case in which failure to assess the evidence, objectively; the use of unsound forensic methodology or misinterpretation of forensic data has, led to a false or questionable conviction. Students critically evaluate the police procedures, the judicial process and the interpretation of the forensic evidence. Each group will generate and deliver a Power Point presentation of the assigned case.
Unit Learning Outcomes KNOWLEDGE
1. To develop an awareness of the nature and causes of investigator bias in criminal investigation
2. To develop an understanding of how context and expectation effects can lead to inadvertent investigator bias
3. To understand the rules of admissibility of scientific evidence in Court (Daubert and Frye principles) and the impact of the CSI effect on jurors in our adversarial legal system
4. To understand the cross race effect and how this can impact, negatively, on the delivery of justice
5. To develop a capacity to critically analyse evidential and forensic information while maintaining objectivity
6. To develop the capacity to interpret data objectively using scientifically defensible arguments
7. To develop the capacity to evaluate data in the context of peer-reviewed publications to ensure that all alternative interpretations of the data are considered and that context and expectations effects, which can lead to investigator bias, are eliminated
8. To develop oral presentation skills, via PowerPoint
9. To develop literature review, critique and writing skills
10. To be able to think critically about the way in which the criminal justice system perpetuates wrongful convictions
11. To understand the etiology of systemic bias associated with the wrongful conviction of individuals from marginalized groups
12. To understand the relevance of race, gender or class bias on the frequency of wrongful convictions
13. To be able to identify the remedies available, once a finding of systemic bias has been made
14. To be able to identify and propose areas of reform to address the fallibility of the criminal justice system
Timetabled Learning Activities Week 1: Lectures, Films and Documentaries 12 hours (4 x 3 hours).
Week 2: No Formal Contact
Week 3: No Formal Contact
Week 4: Test 1 hour and power point presentations 12 hours (6 x 2 hours) - dependent upon enrolment numbers.
Unit Learning Experiences The broad aim of this unit is to create an awareness of the endogenous and exogenous factors that impact upon our judicial system and generate miscarriages of justice.
After completing the unit students will be familiar with the types of errors that can result from inherent and acquired biases, expectation and context effects, tunnel vision, incompetence and misconduct which have generated inappropriate outcomes in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.
The approach is designed to alert students to the sources of investigator bias and the need for objectivity in forensic investigation.
The principles involved in conducting objective investigations and the insidious nature of context and expectation effects will be described and illustrated in formal contact time in Week 1 via lectures, videos and films. From that point forward, students will take responsibility for researching and critically analysing their assigned cases via self-directed learning, making use of resources available online and in the University library. Students will have two to three weeks to research the assigned case and to generate a 12-15 minutes Powerpoint presentation which outlines the case and provides an in-depth discussion of the investigative procedures and the sources and types of errors or misinterpretations that resulted from the investigation. Discussion will focus on the impact of investigator bias, context and expectation effects and the use of inappropriate forensic analyses on the legal outcome of the initial trial and on appeals against the verdict where appropriate. The report will also suggest how the errors and misinterpretations could have been avoided. The PowerPoint presentation will be delivered to the entire class in week 4. The presentation will be followed by up to 10 minutes of questions and discussion in which the major forensic and legal concerns raised in the presentation will be emphasised and evaluated. Guidance for individual students during the research and writing phase will be provided by the unit coordinator through the Discussion Board on Moodle as required.
Assessment Feedback and assistance will be provided to all students during the research and writing phase through the discussion board of Moodle. Immediate feedback will be provided on the PowerPoint presentation during the discussion session following its delivery.
Assessment 1 - 1 hour MCQ
Assessment 2 - short PowerPoint presentation of a case chosen by the student (personal work that will be uploaded on LMS)
Assessment 3 - group power point presentation of an assigned case
Prerequisites PEC103/CHE103 Introduction to Forensic Science OR CRM100 Introduction to Criminology OR permission of the Unit Co-ordinator.
Previously 2016: 'Case Studies in Forensic Biology'
Appears in these Courses/Majors:
see individual structures for context
Animal Health (BSc) [New in 2015]
Animal Science (BSc) [New in 2014]
Biological Sciences (BSc) [New in 2014]
Biomedical Science (BSc) [New in 2014]
Chemistry (BSc) [New in 2014]
Clinical Laboratory Science (BSc) [New in 2015]
Conservation and Wildlife Biology (BSc) [New in 2014]
Crime Science (BCrim) [New in 2018]
Criminology + Forensic Biology and Toxicology [Combined] (BCrim)+(BSc)
Crop and Pasture Science (BSc) [New in 2016]
Engineering Technology (BSc) [New in 2014]
Environmental Management and Sustainability (BSc) [New in 2014]
Environmental Science (BSc) [New in 2014]
Forensic Biology and Toxicology (BSc) [New in 2014]
Genetics and Molecular Biology (BSc) [New in 2014]
Laboratory Medicine (BSc/BLabMed) [New in 2016]
Law + Criminology [Combined] (BCrim)+(LLB) [New in 2018]
Marine Biology (BSc) [New in 2017]
Marine Science (BSc) [New in 2014]
Mathematics and Statistics (BSc) [New in 2014]
Mineral Science (BSc) [New in 2014]
Physics and Nanotechnology (BSc) [New in 2014]
Sport and Health Science (BSc) [New in 2014]
Appears in these Minors Crime Science
Forensic Biology
Internet Access RequirementsMurdoch units normally include an online component comprising materials, discussions, lecture recordings and assessment activities. All students, regardless of their location or mode of study, need to have access to and be able to use computing devices with browsing capability and a connection to the Internet via Broadband (Cable, ADSL or Mobile) or Wireless. The Internet connection should be readily available and allow large amounts of data to be streamed or downloaded (approximately 100MB per lecture recording). Students also need to be able to enter into online discussions and submit assignments online.


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