KWC Opens Justice Class to the Public

Kentucky Wesleyan College Opens Justice Class to the Public

Owensboro, Ky.
(August 26, 2013) – The Criminal Justice, Criminology and Law program at Kentucky Wesleyan College is opening a class to the community during the Fall Semester. The course, “When Justice Fails,” will meet on Monday nights from 6 – 8:30 p.m. It begins September 9 and ends December 2. Daryl Burton, an exonerated inmate, will give a public presentation and meet with the class (date and time to be announced). The class, taught by Ken Ayers, Ph.D., is free and open to the public. Community members may attend any or all of the classes and join the discussion. For more information, contact Dr. Ayers at or call 852-3169.

Class schedule:

September 9 - What is justice?
Lecture 1 - From Aristotle to Rawls
:  The Philosophy of Justice: criminal, social, moral, economic, political and religious.

September 16 – When the police do not protect or serve
Lecture 2 - Law and Disorder:
  An examination of the New Orleans Police Department during and after Hurricane Katrina, specifically an investigation into questionable police shootings by the New Orleans Police Department in the wake of Katrina.  When justice fails to protect and serve.

September 23 – Would you confess to a crime you did not commit?
Lecture 3 - The Confessions:
  Why would four innocent men confess to a crime they did not commit?  We will examine the conviction of four Navy sailors for the rape and murder of a Norfolk, Va., woman.  Threats of the death penalty, sleep deprivation and intimidation that led each of the “Norfolk Four” to confess, despite any evidence linking them to a crime.  Should we do justice at any cost?  What are the social and moral implications?

September 30 – Would you plead guilty to a crime you did not commit? Is justice served when plea bargaining is used?
Lecture 4 – The Plea:
  The trial is the centerpiece of America’s judicial process.  The trial by jury system places a defendant’s fate in the hands of a jury of one’s peers.  But nearly 95% of all criminal cases never go to trial but instead are settled through plea bargaining. We will explore the moral, judicial and constitutional implications of relying on plea bargaining to expedite justice.

October 14 – Did Texas execute an innocent man?
Lecture 5 - Death by Fire:
Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and other states, but it’s the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham – convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children – that’s now at the center of the national debate.  We will examine the Willingham conviction in light of new science that raises doubts about whether the fire at the center of the case was really arson at all.  Is justice served by being the only country in the modern world o have and use the death penalty?

October 21 – Does justice fail when innocent persons are convicted of a crime they did not do?
Lecture 6 -
Clyde Charles spent 17 years in Louisiana's state penitentiary at Angola before DNA testing finally cleared him of the rape for which he had received a life sentence. Frederick Daye, Neil Miller and Anthony Robinson each spent 10 years in prison for crimes they didn't commit before they were finally exonerated.  And Ron Williamson spent 11 years on Oklahoma's Death Row for a rape and murder he didn't commit. At one point, he was just five days away from being executed.

Charles, three years after release, was jobless and homeless, living in his car. And he is not alone. Charles is one of hundreds of wrongfully convicted prisoners -- the most celebrated being the approximately 130 cleared by DNA evidence -- who have found that re-entry into society is much more difficult than they ever expected.  In "Burden of Innocence," we will examine these five exonerated men to learn how they have fared following their highly publicized releases. We will focus on the social, psychological and economic challenges these men now face, the vast majority of them without any financial or transitional assistance from the states that imprisoned them. Why did justice fail them?

October 28 – When moral/religious justice fails to protect the innocent
Lecture 7 – Hand of God:
  A case study of more than 10,000 children reportedly sexually abused by  a Catholic priest. In "Hand of God," filmmaker Joe Cultrera explores the very personal story of how his brother -- Paul -- was molested in the 1960s by their parish priest, Father Joseph Birmingham, who allegedly abused nearly 100 other children.  Cultrera tells the story of faith betrayed and how his brother Paul and the rest of the Cultrera family fought back against a scandal that continues to afflict scores of churches across the country. We will explore the moral, criminal and social implications of justice.

Lecture 7 Continued - The silence:  We examine a little-known chapter of the Catholic Church sex abuse story: decades of abuse of Native Americans by priests and other church workers in Alaska. We examine the legacy of abuse by a number of men who worked for the Catholic Church along Alaska's far west coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They left a trail of hundreds of claims of abuse, making this one of the hardest hit regions in the country.  As part of the church's class action settlement with the victims, the bishop of Fairbanks, Donald Kettler, was asked to do something that no other bishop in the country had done on this scale: return to all of the villages where the abuses occurred and apologize to the victims in person. In December 2010, Bishop Kettler visited the village of St. Michael -- frequently referred to as "ground zero" for the abuse -- where the bishop would come face-to-face with the reality of the abuse that the church had refused to acknowledge for years.

November 4 – When kids kill – What is the right thing to do?
Lecture 8 – When kids get life
: The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that allows children under 18 to be prosecuted as adults and sentenced to life without parole.  We will review case studies of five young men in Colorado sentenced to life without parole and examine their crimes and punishment, the laws that sanctioned their convictions, and the prospect of never being free again.

November 11 – Insanity:  When political, criminal and social justice collides
Lecture 9 - A crime of insanity:
 In December 1994, Ralph Tortorici, a 26 year-old psychology student at the State University of New York, walked into a classroom, pulled out a hunting knife and a high-powered rifle and announced that he was taking the class hostage. During a three-hour standoff with police negotiators, Tortorici--a paranoid schizophrenic who believed the government had implanted tracking devices in his body--demanded to speak to the president, the governor and the Supreme Court. Shots were fired, leaving one student seriously wounded and Tortorici charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping and attempted murder. That Ralph Tortorici was mentally ill was apparent to everyone. What was not so clear was how the courts should deal with his case. We will examine the controversial case of Ralph Tortorici and explore the personal, political and societal fallout that occurs when the legal and psychiatric worlds collide.

November 18 – Forensic Pathology
Lecture 10 - Postmortem
:  The death investigation crisis in America – Every day, nearly 7,000 people die in America.  And when these deaths happen suddenly, or under suspicious circumstances, we assume there will be a thorough investigation, just like we see on TV – but reality is very different.  As a result, sometimes murderers go free and the innocent goes to prison. 

November 25 – Does our system work?
Lecture 11 - The O.J. trial, the death of Caylee Anthony and the George Zimmerman trial:
  From jury nullification to evidence problems to juries understanding the case and law – an examination of how our jury system fails or succeeds. We will explore the dominate role race played in the O.J. verdict, the role the evidence played in the Anthony trial and the role Florida law – “Stand Your Ground” – had in the Zimmerman verdict. 

December 2 – Should incarceration be incorporated?
Lecture 12 – Prisons for profit:  Kentucky was the first state to approve the use of private prisons.  America passed a grim milestone in 2008:  one in every 100 Americans is now behind bars.  This lecture is an investigation of the government's trend to outsource prisons and prisoners to the private sector, and we will examine the controversy it is causing.  Is justice served when private corporations make profit on others misfortunes?  Should it be the function of Government to punish or that of private corporations?

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