Policy Press

Publishing with a purpose

Case Studies of Famous Trials and the Construction of Guilt and Innocence

By Christopher Birkbeck and Caro Gorden

Published

Apr 11, 2022

Page count

304 pages

ISBN

978-1529203677

Dimensions

234 x 156 mm

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

Apr 11, 2022

Page count

304 pages

ISBN

978-1529203721

Dimensions

Imprint

Bristol University Press

From the trials of Oscar Pistorius to O. J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, this innovative book provides a critical review of 11 high profile criminal cases. These case studies examine how ‘guilt’ and ‘innocence’ are constructed in the courts and in wider society, using the themes of evidence and narratives; credibility; rhetoric and oratory in the court room; social status; vulnerability and false confessions; diminished responsibility and the media and social judgments.

Written for Criminology, Sociology, Law, and Criminal Justice students, the book includes:

• video links to selected documentaries and interviews

• web links to important case materials such as trial transcripts

• exercises for students based on the cases that are covered

The book delivers an accessible examination of the criminological, sociological, psychological and legal processes underpinning the outcome of criminal cases, and their representation in the media and wider society.

"This collection of international cases challenges the reader to consider the wider implications on how different theoretical perspectives and legal principles can impact on criminal case outcomes. Well written and including exercises, the book is suited to a wide range of criminal and legal studies courses." Wendy Bateman, University of Bolton

Caroline Gorden is Reader in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Wrexham Glyndwr University. Co-author of Constructing Guilt and Innocence: Case Studies of Famous Trials, Caroline delivers the innovative module to her undergraduate students on which the book is based, which has received great feedback from students. Caroline has also published work in relation to women prison leavers and homelessness in Wales.

Christopher Birkbeck is Professor of Criminology at the University of Salford. He designed the original module on Constructing Guilt and Innocence and delivered it for many years at the University of Salford. He has published on a wide variety of topics, including comparative criminology, policing, prisons, probation, and theories of crime.

Introduction

1. “We truly don’t know what happened. Somebody knows, but we don’t know.” Failing to Establish Guilt in the Trial of Casey Anthony

2. ‘I am not a man the court can approve of, but I am not a maniac of any kind’: The Tension Between Evidence and Story-Telling in the Trial of James Hanratty

3. ‘Sheer Hypocrisy? It is already admitted, sir.’ Consistency and Inconsistency in Stories: The Case of Dr Crippen

4. ‘A woman who is, among many other odd things, a bumpkin’: The Role of Credibility and Believability in the Trial of Rosemary West

5. ‘I didn’t go wrong’: Techniques of Neutralisation and the Conviction of the Oklahoma Bomber, Timothy McVeigh

6. ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’: Language Style and Persuasion in the Criminal Trial of O.J. Simpson

7. ‘The man has a wonderful kind heart’: Social Geometry and the Acquittal of Michael Jackson

8. ‘They got to my head’: The Role of Vulnerability in the Alleged False Confession and Subsequent Conviction of Brendan Dassey

9. ‘… unless I can convince people in here I am mad and maybe then [I’ll serve] ten years in the loony bin.’ The Defence of Diminished Responsibility and the Trial of Peter Sutcliffe

10. ‘I am not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused’s disabilities in the same circumstances, would have fired four shots into that small toilet cubicle’: The ‘Reasonable Person’ (and Common Sense) in the Trial of Oscar Pistorius

11. ‘I exist only through the lens of Meredith’s murder in some people’s minds. They forget that I’m a human being with my own life and my own experiences’: Amanda Knox’s Trial in the Media

Afterword