NIJ grant to fund study of wrongful convictions, investigative failures

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
September 30, 2014

The School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University has received a $390,000 grant from National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to study the causes of wrongful convictions and criminal investigative failures.

The NIJ is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

"This NIJ grant provides us the opportunity to research the underlying causes and systemic nature of wrongful convictions and criminal investigative failures, including unsolved crimes that could have been solved," said Kim Rossmo, University Endowed Chair in Criminology and the director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence and Investigation in the Department of Criminal Justice at Texas State. "When such an event occurs, there is a tendency to focus on a single issue or blame a particular individual.  However, like an airplane disaster, the underlying cause is usually more complex, often the product of multiple factors. 

"A better understanding of how these failures happen will help prevent future mistakes and result in a fairer and more effective criminal justice system," he said.

The funded proposal, Case Deconstruction of Criminal Investigative Failures, was submitted in response to NIJ’s solicitation for research on "sentinel events" and criminal justice system errors. The sentinel events signal underlying structural problems and systemic weaknesses. Causal factors will be identified as primary or secondary and classified as personnel, organizational or situational problems. Concept maps will be built so relationships and interactions can be graphically displayed and analyzed in causal factor networks. The research will serve as the basis for suggesting improvements in criminal justice policies and organizational procedures.

Rossmo will be the principal investigator and project director, Joy Pollock, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, will be the co-principal investigator, and Shannon Cunningham the doctoral research assistant.