Psychology and Law (317)--Paper/Presentation Instructions and Rubric

We watched episodes of Making a Murder (Part 1). Specifically, we watched the first episode “Eighteen Years Lost” and the penultimate episode “Lack of Humility”. These two episodes introduce and summarize the series. Everything in between involves the many details of the Avery case. You can pick any of the episodes and you will find some psycho-legal issues we covered in class.

Your job for this assignment is to choose any episode or multiples from this show. Have fun with it! You will use your new psychological knowledge about empirical findings from Psychology and Law research to evaluate the psycho-legal issue. For example, the series begins with Avery's story of wrongful conviction based on faulty eyewitness identification. There is so much you can say about that issue!! You can act as a memory expert and opine on what psychological science can contribute to inform jurors on eyewitness issues. There are many studies that you can cite to make your points.

Write a three- to five-page paper covering the topic you selected. Alternatively, you can prepare a 15-minute presentation on the topic you selected. If you choose a presentation, you must record it and upload the link to Canvas. You can use PowerPoint recording narration function to record. Then convert the PPX to a movie file and upload to youtube. You can post the link to Canvas.

The topic should be on a psycho-legal issue where science made or could make a contribution. The paper or presentation must demonstrate the use of relevant course material and independent research (e.g., Making A Murderer episode, studies posted on scientists' websites). You must state what the legal issue/concern/problem is and how psychologists have studied/explained/assisted with empirical research or theorizing.

You must include at least two empirical articles (studies) to support your narrative. Student knowledge of the research and/or theory is very important, but it is not necessary to explain in very specific detail each of the studies you researched. You need to generally describe the key aspects of the studies or theories and mention the factors that are relevant to your point/issue/idea.


Content: Depth and Accuracy of Content (30 points) 

-Paper provides an explanation of the key Psycho-legal issue (e.g., mistaken eyewitness identification, jury decision-making, the bias in forensic science evaluation, etc.)

- Paper provides an accurate and complete explanation of key theories or theoretical explanations, drawing upon relevant literature. Applications of research/theory are included to illuminate issues.

- Provides evidence of broad and valid research with multiple and varied sources (two or more empirical articles).

- Combines and evaluates existing ideas to form new insights.

- Information completely accurate; all names and facts were precise and explicit.

Research Effort (10 points) 

-Went above and beyond to research information; solicited material in addition to what was provided in text/lecture; included personal ideas and information to enhance the project (e.g., episode of Making a Murderer, studies posted on scientists' websites).

Quality of writing/presentation: mechanics (use of the appropriate title, headings, sentence and paragraph structure, appropriate presentation style, clear explanations, etc. ) (10 points)

Good luck!


Here are some ideas of Psycho-legal issues in the various episodes: 

Confessions- Episode 4 (Indefensible), Episode 9 (Lack of Humility)

Eyewitness- Episode 5 (The last person to see Teresa)

Forensic Evidence - Episode 6 (Testing the Evidence)

Throughout the series there are other issues like Pre­trial publicity, Jury, and Judges' Decision Making.

What else did you see?

On another note, Part 2 of Making A Murderer (not required in this class) has an episode on detecting deception Wow!! Using brain fingerprinting to "prove" that Avery is innocent!! Here is a link to a story about it.