Fair Trial — Spring 2017

Professor Nesson

No jury exists without bias or context. The American jury is designed as a black box that we push facts into and expect a fair decision from. But what makes a trial, and thus a jurys decision, fair?

Fairness of presentation, of courtroom etiquette, and of evidence submission are merely the tips of a much larger iceberg of fairness. What about the means by which a group communicates? What if the discussion were anonymous? What if jury members were each required to write down all their thoughts in advance? What if at the end of the trial, we could look back as if watching 12 Angry Men? What effect would that have on the outcome of the outcome of trials, and would they be more or less fair?

In this class we will expand this concept outside the courtroom. Consider how important Facebook was to removing the old HLS crest under Royall Must Fall. How would these discussions have gone in other contexts, like small groups or if town halls were better attended? What if the conversation happened anonymously online? Would the end result have been different, or would different opinions have come out? These are deep and interesting questions, which we will explore.

Students will write a paper (1500 words) and an exam essay (500 words), both due at the end of the exam period.

For more details about this course, see the Harvard Law School Course Catalog.

Last updated

January 5, 2017