Marina Sorochinski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Division of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies, and Homeland Security, was recently named the winner of the C. Edward Shaffer Award for Best Research Presentation for “The Weakest Link? Investigative Issues in Serial Sexual Assault that Lead to Wrongful Conviction for Single Crimes within a Series” at the 2021 Society for Police and Criminal Psychology Conference.
This new project links Dr. Sorochinski’s research in investigative psychology and social justice agenda with work that she does to inform and educate the community about wrongful convictions in collaboration with the Deskovic Foundation. She is working on this project with Matthew Barry Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“Justice to those who are wrongfully convicted is at the forefront of this work, but very often the issue could have been avoided before the conviction happened, had the investigation not fallen off the path,” Dr. Sorochinski explained. “This concern is especially relevant in a recently identified trend in wrongful convictions data where an individual is wrongfully identified as a perpetrator of one crime within a series of sexual assaults.”
At the heart of this issue is linkage blindness (i.e., failure on the part of investigators to recognize that a crime is actually part of a series). The current study aims to empirically substantiate whether those single crimes within series that result with a wrongful conviction are “behavioral outliers,” where the actual perpetrator displayed high degree of behavioral inconsistency that impeded police to see them as connected to the rest of the series, or whether other factors (e.g., tunnel vision, miscommunication, forensic errors) play a more prominent role.
“The research has direct implications for improving police investigations of serial crime, as well as for understanding and preventing carelessness and misconduct during such investigations,” Dr. Sorochinski said.