Wrongful conviction research in Australia: Strategies and approaches to understanding the unknown and overlooked

G Stratton1, R Dioso-Villa2, J Tudor-Owen3, J Fuller2, K Hail-Jares2, J MacFarlane1
1Rmit University, Melbourne, Australia, 2Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 3Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there were 139 exonerations of innocent people in the United States during 2017, bringing the total number of exonerations to 2161 since 1989. Where Australia has a history of wrongful conviction, notably Gene Gibson’s recent successful appeal, exonerations occur on a less frequent basis. Where research in the United States has explored miscarriages of justice from multi-disciplinary perspectives,  due to numerous limitations much of the existing Australian research has focused upon legal issues and case study analysis of successful appeals. This roundtable proposes the need for criminological approaches to wrongful conviction that can foster a stronger understanding of the problem and how research may contribute to those seeking justice in response to criminal justice system error. Panellists will discuss the barriers that they have encountered in conducting innovative research in the area, need for rigorous research on wrongful conviction, and raise potential solutions and alternatives to explore the topic in an Australian context. The discussion will focus on what methodologies have been useful in examining wrongful conviction and translating research into practice or policy reform. Panellists will discuss how various approaches including experimental design, existing case studies, theoretical development, aggregate data, and the voices of the wrongfully accused provide a base for Australian research to garner a better understanding of the issues.


Biography:
Dr Greg Stratton is a Lecturer in Justice & Legal Studies at RMIT University and is also the manager of The Bridge of Hope Innocence Initiative at RMIT University. Dr Stratton’s research interests focus on miscarriages of justice has been focused on marginalisation and criminal justice error, public perceptions, media representations, and advancing criminological understandings of wrongful conviction.  In pursuing these interests under a broader social justice agenda, Greg also supervises students interns also undertake research projects that intersect with these and other research interests including digital criminology, language and the law, and parole reform.

Dr. Dioso-Villa is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. Her research investigates the sociology of forensic science looking at the admissibility and evaluation of forensic sciences as expert testimony and the application of organisational theory in the study of wrongful convictions. Her work has appeared in the Stanford Law Review, Law and Policy, Law Probability and Risk and the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. She has received grants and fellowships from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the American Society of Criminology and the Canadian Foundation of University Women.

Jacqueline Fuller is a current PhD candidate in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University in Queensland. Her PhD project will investigate how innocent persons come into contact with the criminal justice system and how these cases are exposed as such, as well as the factors that influence whether a wrongful conviction cases is exonerated through the appellate system or through an alternate pathway. Previously, Jacqueline’s honours project examined the role of Australian royal commissions within the context of wrongful convictions.

Dr Katie Hail-Jares is a Post Doctorate Research Fellow at the Griffith Criminology Institute. She is an epidemiological criminologist whose work focuses on how criminalizing behavior impacts personal and community health. Wrongful convictions can be studied within a medical model of systemic failure. Her work has appeared in Justice Quarterly, PLoS One, Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependency, and the Iowa Law Review. She is the lead editor of Challenging Perspectives on Street-Based Sex Work (Temple University Press).

Joseph MacFarlane is a current PhD Candidate at the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University. His research area is focused on the discretionary use of interpreters in the justice system and how the failure to recognise and cater for linguistic diversity creates an environment for miscarriages of justice to arise. Joseph’s previous Masters research has focused on how managerialist concerns that emphasise the efficient and cost-effective processing of criminal cases serve to undermine the possibility of both procedural fairness for vulnerable people and accurate outcomes in criminal cases. Joseph has previously worked with RMIT’s Innocence Initiative investigating claims of factual innocence.

 

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