Course Details

People v. Juan Rivera, A Case Study

Juan Rivera was charged with the rape and murder of a child in 1992, a crime for which the State sought the death penalty. He was later found innocent, with a seemingly unimpeachable alibi, later corroborated by forensic DNA analysis. But he was nonetheless convicted by three separate Lake County, Illinois juries. Over nineteen years after his arrest, having been incarcerated for that entire time, Mr. Rivera was released from prison after the Illinois Appellate Court declared that no rational jury could have found proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and vacated his conviction in a ruling that barred prosecutors from trying him again. The tools and methods utilized by law enforcement to secure these convictions, and the role played by the judiciary, will be central themes of this seminar. The investigative techniques on both sides, the legal issues which predominated at these trials, along with ongoing tactical and ethical considerations, will provide the framework for discussion and study. Testimony, pleadings, and other materials generated from these trials will constitute some of the readings, along with related articles and court opinions. There will also be guest speakers for selected topics. Class participation and a final paper will be the basis of grading. A substantial number of students and lawyers, including several on the Bluhm Legal Clinic faculty, advocated for Juan Rivera in the years after his second trial and at his third trial. This course will be taught by one those faculty, Jeffrey Urdangen. Prof. Urdangen has been the Director of the Clinic’s Center for Criminal Defense for the past 13 years, and was a principal on the defense team for Mr. Rivera’s third trial.

Catalog Number: CONPUB 745


Course History

Spring 2017
Title: People v. Juan Rivera, A Case Study
Faculty: Urdangen, Jeffrey (courses | profile)
Section: 1     Credits: 2.0
Capacity: 15     Actual: 8