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June 4, 2012

Miscarriages of Justice and Wrongful Convictions: Failures of the Judicial System From the People Who Were Wronged

In a semester long series, St. Francis College Sociology and Criminal Justice Professor Emily Horwoitz explored times, past and present, when the United States system of justice fell short. Miscarriages of Justice and Wrongful Convictions: Historical and Contemporary Flaws in the U.S. Criminal Justice System began in January with a look at the Salem Witch Trials and Modern American Witch Hunts and came all the way to the present with visits from recently exonerated people like Bernard Baran who spent 22 years behind bars for crimes he never committed.

Among the guests were people who spent years behind bars for crimes they did not commit, attorneys who helped defend and free these victims, authors and professors who can shed light on how and why miscarriages of justice take place.

Lectures included:
February 14: Fernando Bermudez was implicated in the 1991 killing of Raymond Blount, who was shot to death following a fight in a Manhattan nightclub. His attorneys say detectives and prosecutors at the district attorney's office coerced witnesses, failed to investigate obvious leads and ultimately forced Bermudez to spend 18 years of his life incarcerated while the real killer roamed free. He was exonerated after spending 18 years in prison. (Watch Fernando Bermudez)

February 21: Noted defense attorney Ron Kuby and Jesse Friedman (subject of the Academy-award winning documentary CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS). Friedman spent 13 years in prison for child sexual abuse, despite a lack of physical or other evidence. His attorneys claim the children in the case were manipulated by detectives using suggestive questioning and hypnosis, as well as other now-discredited techniques that can lead to false allegations of abuse. (Watch Jesse Friedman and on Kuby)

April 3: Debbie Nathan, author of new best-seller SYBIL EXPOSED, spoke about the reality behind the famous Sybil multiple-personality case. Nathan analyzes how the Sybil phenomenon resulted in the development of the multiple-personality disorder diagnosis, and how this in turn led to many false allegations and wrongful convictions of abuse. (Watch Debbie Nathan)

April 17: Bernard Baran spent 22 years in prison. Baran was a gay teenager working at a daycare center in 1986 when some parents demanded that he be fired because of his sexual orientation. The center refused to dismiss him, and subsequently the same parents came forward alleging that their children were sexually abused by Baran. His trial took place at the height of the daycare abuse hysteria, and the prosecutor in the case stated that putting a gay man in a preschool was like “putting a chocoholic in a candy store.” Despite all lack of evidence, he was found guilty at trial and sentenced to 3 concurrent life sentences in prison. He was finally fully exonerated in 2008. (Watch Bernard Baran)

The spring lecture series was produced and organized by Professor Horowitz for her undergraduate course, Wrongful Convictions. It was also part of the For Seniors program, open free to all area senior citizens, which is supported by the New York City Council and New York State Legislature under contract with the New York City Department for the Aging.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.


St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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