Rights of the Accused: Fact or Fiction? - Constitution Day 2016

On September 15th, 2016, Constitution Day was held in the Business School for the first time at Ithaca College and hosted by the Legal Studies department. For this year’s event the department chose to host a panel discussion, “Rights of the Accused: Fact or Fiction? An in Depth Look at Constitutional Protections of Criminal Defendants”. The panel consisted of three speakers, Tom Kertscher, a reporter for the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel and covered the Steven Avery trial portrayed in the Netflix documentary, Making a Murder; Brad Rudin, a Tompkins County assistant district attorney; and Joe Joch, a lawyer and prosecutor who was elected the Tompkins County district attorney in 1974.

The idea for the panel originated from Professor and Legal Studies Coordinator, Gwen Seaquist. Professor Seaquist had mentioned the Netflix documentary to legal studies professors last school year when it was popular in the Spring of 2015. There is a connection between an Ithaca College professor and Tom Kertscher so Professor Seaquist was able to make contact with Kertscher about participating in a panel discussion for Constitution Day. Over the summer most of the speakers were secured, and when Professor Seaquist had to take a leave of absence for the semester, legal studies instructor Veronica Santana-Frosen was able to take over. She connected the central idea of the documentary with the Constitutional rights of innocent until proven guilty.

On the surface, this event may have seemed geared toward pre-law or legal studies students, but anyone, no matter their major or career can benefit from a discussion such as this. Members of our current community live in a society with this criminal justice system, and at some will be involved or know someone who is involved, and it’s important to know their rights and understand how the system works. Events hosted by the legal department like this can spark students' interest in the study of law or learning more about the law. Santana-Frosen teaches a freshman seminar course, The Law and You – A Critical Analysis of Serial, and involves analyzing the podcast Serial. Students in the course were offered extra-credit for attending and there was a positive response among students as many are now interested in minoring in legal studies.

Constitution Day will be an annual event in the Business School and be hosted in September around the official day. The department has already begun planning for next year’s event. This event couldn’t have happened without the amazing speakers participated and are excited to speak at the college in the future. They were impressed with the students, both in the attendance, questions asked, and how excited they were to be there. If anyone has any ideas for next year’s event or about the legal studies program, please email Veronica Santana-Frosen at vsantanafrosen@ithaca.edu.

View the livestream of the event here

Netflix: Making a Murder Poster Image