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Fair Trial - Spring 2018

Professor Charles 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 jury’s 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? The answers to these questions are not clear, but we will explore them through a variety of approaches in this class.

For more information about this course visit the Harvard Law School Course Catalog