Newsletter: The President Speaks

June 2, 2015



Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered before he could stand trial for the assassination of JFK. But that hasn’t stopped people from putting him on trial, over and over again.

In 1963, the government convened The Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of John F Kennedy. The commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone to kill president.

But many Americans didn’t buy it. The assassination of a president was a national trauma. And the public wanted resolution.  They wanted a trial.

Reporter Ashley Cleek has our story.


Reporter’s Notebook: Ashley Cleek

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Wondering how this week’s episode came together? Our intern, Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle, spoke with reporter Ashley Cleek about the story.

Kirsten: How did you come up with the idea for the story?

Ashley: I was working on another story for Life of the Law about jury selection. I was reading all of these papers about jury selection and in the 1992 American Bar Association mock trial for Oswald they had done jury selection. There was this big study about the jury selection and how there was one juror who had watched the Oliver Stone movie “JFK” the night before the trial and he was swayed. There was more to it than that but I was like, “What do you mean Oswald trial?”

I started googling and looking it up and calling people. The first question I had was, “Why are we trying this dead man?” Like how unjust, how unfair to put this man on trial and retry him, retry him, retry him ad nauseum. And also Nancy wanted a fun story!

Kirsten: What are the other questions this story brings up?

Ashley: I guess the big questions of the story are what is the point of these trials and when is it over? When do we allow that justice is done? And why do we need this solved so badly? Why can we not let this go? You can take this story, figure out any kind of trial that you want to have, and you can do it.  What does it mean for our historical narrative that there was never a trial of Lee Harvey Oswald and then, when there are these mock trials, absolutely no one can agree on the verdict?

Kirsten: What was your favorite part of working on the story?

Ashley: It’s really nice to talk to people about something they enjoy doing. Everyone loved the 1986 trial. Everyone I talked to said, “That was a legit trial.” I think Mark Redhead has really thought about the trial a lot. It’s also interesting to me that Mark Redhead worked on the trial when he was 30 and I kind of understand him. I get that he wanted to make this really big project but not necessarily knowing how to go about it and just throwing all of your energy into something. And he had done that. So to go through all the memories of that with him was really exciting. And Gerry Spence is just fantastic. He doesn’t remember everything about it now, but what he does remember are these really lovely parts. And also to find out that he and Bugliosi are really great friends. So really, just to get to talk to people about a moment in their lives where they did something that they really enjoyed.


Law and Society Conference: A Recap


Our team of journalists, producers, scholars and board members, just got back from a whirlwind four days in Seattle at the Law and Society Association’s Annual Meeting. We met with legal scholars from all over the world in small and large groups, on panels, and in workshops. We talked about their sociolegal research and our work producing stories about the law for our bi-weekly podcast. Our production team held its annual day-long retreat and on Saturday night, seven fabulous storytellers took stage at our Live Law show at the Rendezvous Theater in downtown Seattle — (more about the event below.) A few members reflect on the week that was:

Mary Adkins, Live Law Senior Producer:  Every live show we do feels better the the last. Maybe we’re just lucky enough to get great storytellers every time.

Jonathan Hirsch, Producer: It was so inspiring. The conference was an opportunity for us to share ideas as a team while gathering valuable insights into current legal scholarship.

Ashley Cleek, Journalist: The Law and Society conference proved once again how important it is to keep dialogue open between journalists and legal scholars. I had conversations about personhood and apes, the problems of copyright when Macaques take selfies, and the conundrum of third party doctrine in modern society. Most of all, though, Seattle reminded me how lucky I am to work with this collection of radio producers.

Simone Seiver, Social Media and Post-Production Editor: Have you heard of Slack? Because from the look of things this past weekend, it’s the future. Imagine iMessage for the workplace–that’s basically what it is, and our entire team got on board this weekend. I don’t know how we worked before it, and it’s just day two.

Nancy Mullane, Executive Producer, Host: I love the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting. It’s three days of conversations and presentations and workshops about everything about law and society. They should sell tickets! And the production team meeting? Well. It’s like a party! We work together from the far corners of the country to produce our podcasts, but it’s all over the phone or through email (now Slack). To have a day to sit around a table with the best people you could ever hope to work with and talk about ideas, and problems and stories, and our shared production process. It’s amazing.

Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle, Intern: I had such a great time in Seattle. Between meeting and hanging out with the team for the first time, talking to legal scholars at the Law and Society conference, and getting to see Live Law I’m super happy I was invited along!


LSA President Seron Calls for Change!


As President of the Law and Society Association, Carroll Seron, Associate Dean of Academic Programs and Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California Irvine, School of Social Ecology delivered this year’s keynote address, where she called on her fellow scholars to share their critical research with the public. Here is an excerpt from Seron’s presentation delivered on May 30, 2015:

Seron: As faculty, there are many competing challenges on our time; this is particularly true for newly minted scholars beginning their careers. Even if we have the time, however, we have not been trained to speak to journalists or the public about our work or to translate the complexity and subtlety of our research to a broader audience. How do we build from a scholarly foundation organized around rigorous standards of peer review to speak to a broader audience and and have practical impact?

As many of you know on May 20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed America Competes (Reauthorization Act of 2015), which proposes to dramatically cut funding to social and behavioral science, including law and social science. We can only hope that the Senate is wiser.

Whatever the outcome of NSF funding, efforts like Life of the Law become all that much more important in a context where elected officials do not grasp, understand, or appreciate the value of social scientific research. The producers of Life of the Lawpodcasts love law and society precisely for the ways in which we push the listener to think about legal matters differently. Over the last several years, the editors and producers of Life of the Law have held multiple workshops for LSA attendees to pick up some tips on talking to the media. By last count, Life of the Law had over 90,000 downloads of weekly podcasts per month! That’s a pretty impressive “impact factor” compared to many of our journal publications.

Let’s also remind our colleagues that these forms of impact should be taken seriously in the tenure and promotion process. I’m not sure what the next mode of communication will be, but you may get a hint from your students, your children and your grandchildren. How we communicate is as important as what we communicate.”


And LIVE LAW 8… That Happened Too…


Who knew you don’t put crocheted blankets in the washing machine? John Mullen promised his aunts Ruth and Grace, both expert knitters, that he would never, ever wash the one they made for him…until he did.
Saturday night’s sold out LIVE LAW 8: Promises in Seattle was a blast. From a violated yarn-promise, to young years spent in prison, to a surprise encounter with Martin Luther King’s assassin, we heard stories that moved us, disturbed us and made us laugh. A huge thanks to our talented and brave roster of storytellers—Jennifer Jasper, Jaye Ware, Malcolm Feeley, Baltimore Jones, Mitra Sharafi, Georgia McDade and John Mullen. And a big thanks to our esteemed host for the night, Infinite Guest’s Steve Nelson, who once promised his mom he wouldn’t build a fire…then roasted the best forbidden s’mores he’d ever tasted.
Next up: LIVE LAW 9: Eye Witness in none other than New Orleans on June 18! Visit our site for updates, and if you have a great story to tell or want to share the name of someone in NOLA who does, you know the drill —email Mary.


What We’re Reading Now: Emily Bazelon


It seems like these days everyone is talking about sexual assault on college campuses. But has the chatter actually done anything constructively to improve the situation?

In her latest piece, the New York Times’s Emily Bazelon explores one of the most talked-about campus sexual assault cases. At Columbia University, a female student (who graduated this past week) has been carrying around a mattress to her classes, to meetings, to everywhere she goes on campus, in protest of what she alleges was an attack from a fellow student at the beginning of her Sophomore year.

“What have we learned?” asks Bazelon about the Columbia case. Read the story here.


Stay tuned for next week’s LIVE LAW story: Opinel No. 5


“I don’t know why you are treating me like this. The only thing I have done is carry a pistol into a movie.”

– Harvey Lee Oswald