This lesson sequence centers around a traditional forensics lab, but instead of students using DNA evidence to determine who committed a crime, they examine the innocence of someone who was wrongfully convicted. Students begin the lesson sequence by looking at real data about the criminal justice system to generate questions about the inequities they see around race and mass incarceration. These questions lead students to the case studies of real exonerees that they use to look into the inequities around wrongful convictions. Students work together to analyze the post-conviction DNA samples for their case studies and use Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) to help determine the innocence of the subject of their case study. Afterwards, students use their new knowledge to advocate for criminal justice reform strategies of their choosing through Student Action Projects.
7 Lesson plans
Remote or in classroom
Nicholas I, student
Explore real data and develop claims based on evidence supported by reasoning to explore disparities in the US criminal justice system.
Read through and get to know the details of each case study to explore how post-conviction DNA testing could help people already imprisoned.
Learn about Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) and how they are used in forensics to identify individuals.
Analyze post-conviction DNA samples for each case study and make recommendations to the court based on the evidence obtained.
Connect the case studies and lab to systemic problems present in the world through a group discussion about a reading on the presumption of guilt that is placed on Black men by the US criminal justice system.
Explore how implicit biases are shaped and created by systemic racism to cause the inequities seen today.
Take action to intervene on the systemic problems that plague the US criminal justice system to disrupt the racist practices that harm everyone.
These links are for SEP teachers who are part of the kit loan program. To become a part of the kit loan program you must complete the 3 week professional development program.