The objective of these classes was to analyze the international, national, and provincial treatment of child abuse and child neglect. I wanted students to recognize the different situations that constitute abuse and neglect and to identify the existing gaps in the legal framework to adequately deal with these situations.

The input story included selected scenes from the films Hotel for Dogs (Freudenthal, 2009). Students had to choose one child from the film and produce a sentencing mitigating video for the parents or caregivers of a neglected or abused child found guilty in a hypothetical trial of that parent or caregiver. In preparation for the sentencing mitigating videos, students had to discuss the legal framework at the international, national, and provincial levels. Students also had to watch sentencing videos and read articles written by legal scholars and practitioners that discussed the film and legal conventions of sentencing mitigating videos.


This class dealt with bigamy, polygamy, and other crimes against conjugal rights. The objective was to analyze the legal framework in Canada and to compare it with the legal treatment in other states. Students had to produce the pilot for a TV show on bigamy. The stoiy had to revolve around a man married to two women at the same time, and it had to include a criminal trial. The pilot also had to include scenes of criminal justice officers using rapid cognition strategies to solve legal and criminal problems. The input story included a clip from the film The Bigamist (Lupino, 1953). It tells the stoiy of a married man who lives a double life in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

TABLE 8.5 Bigamy and Polygamy: Guiding Questions.

  • (1) What are some of the reasons for criminalizing bigamy and polygamy?
  • (2) Do you agree with criminalizing bigamy in our present society? Why or why not?
  • (3) Who practices polygamy? Why?
  • (4) BC Chief Justice held that “women in polygamous relationships are at an elevated risk of physical and psychological harm. They face higher rates of domestic violence and abuse, including sexual abuse.’’ Are these valid reasons to criminalize polygamy?
  • (5) Why is polygamy a crime when thr ee consenting adults agree to live together in a conjugal union? What are the advantages, if any, of polygamy?
  • (6) Do you agree with the criminalization of polygamy? Why or why not?
  • (7) What Charter rights, if any, may be infringed by the criminalization of polygamy and bigamy?
  • (8) What are some of the causes of adultery? What are some of the consequences of adultery?
  • (9) Do you agree with the legal treatment of adultery in Canada? Do you think it should be criminalized?
  • (10) What messages do we get from society and media about adultery?


These were the last substantive classes. They dealt with women as perpetrators of crimes and the abuse that many suffer at the hands of the criminal justice system. Students also had to look for a wrongfully convicted female and do research about her case. Then, they had to produce a clemency video to request her exoneration. For the input stoiy, I asked students to read the play The Exonerated yy Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (2004) and to analyze it from a legal perspective.

TABLE 8.6 Exoneration: Guiding Questions.

  • • What is exoneration? Is there compensation for wrongfill convictions in the United States? What about Canada?
  • • Who is Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs? What happened to her? Why was she convicted? What happened to her husband? How was Sunny finally released? What did she do when she was released? Why wasn’t Sunny Jacobs released immediately after Walter Rhodes’ confession?
  • • Who is Jesse Tafero? What is his story?
  • • Who is Walter Rhodes? What is his story? What do you think about the plea bargain? Analyze it critically. What are the pros and cons of plea bargains? What are the usual consequences and implications of plea bargaining?
  • • Who is Peter Pringle? What is his story?
  • • Does the death penalty really deter crime?
  • • What is the history of the death penalty in Canada and its abolition?
  • • What does the American Convention of Human Rights (known as the Pact of San Jose) say about the death penalty? Is Canada a party to this treaty? Why or why not?
  • • Sister Helen Prejean (1994), author of Dead Man Walking, argues that “All of us are worth more than our worst act.” What does this mean? Do you agree? Why or why not?


The final evaluation was instrumented as a take-home exam. Students had to complete three questions, activities, or problems. The first question was mandatory for all students. Then students could choose two questions from the remaining alternatives.

The first question dealt with the connection between criminal law and popular culture. I included the same questions as the ones that I had asked students at the beginning and middle of the course. I asked them to have a new look at these questions and to reflect on whether and, if so how, the course changed their original answers.

Another question asked students to write a script for a documentary based on one or more of the stories from Sin by Silence, Women Against Abuse, or a similar website.

Students had to produce a sentencing mitigating video for Ricardo Morales in The Secret in their Eyes (Campanella, 2009). Morales has kept Gomez imprisoned for 25 years. Gomez had raped and killed Morales’ wife. Students were given a summary of the transcripts of a hypothetical trial against Ricardo Morales. They also had to predict the rapid cognition reactions from the judge, the prosecutor, and the victim. In order to predict their reactions, students received a short biography of all these individuals and examples of previous intuitive reactions in different settings.

In another question, I asked students to watch and analyze the film A Reason to Believe (Tirola, 1995), which narrates a campus rape after a fraternity party. I wanted students to analyze the incident and to explore the reasons why it happened. Students had to produce a TV talk show focused on their analysis.

The last question asked students to make a documentary about a wrongfully convicted female based on the film Double Jeopardy (Beresford, 1999).

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