MSU College of Law

Barbara O'Brien

Barbara O'Brien
[Hi-Res Photo]
Associate Professor of Law
Law College Building
648 N. Shaw Lane Rm 420
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
517-432-6907
obrienb@law.msu.edu

Barbara O’Brien teaches classes in criminal law and procedure and is currently the Editor of the National Registry of Exonerations. Her interdisciplinary scholarship examines the role of race and other extralegal factors in criminal investigations, trials, and the administration of capital punishment. Her work applies empirical methodology to legal issues, such as identifying predictors of false convictions and understanding prosecutorial decision-making. She has been an expert witness or consultant on the issue of racially-biased jury selection in criminal trials, and has written extensively about biases that undermine both fairness and accuracy in the criminal justice system.

Ph.D. 2007, University of Michigan; J.D. 1996, Order of the Coif, University of Colorado School of Law; B.A. 1993, cum laude, Bowdoin College

  • Criminal Law
    (Formerly DCL 131) An examination of the criminal justice system, including emphasis on the role of defense counsel and prosecutor; the adversary system; ethical considerations; sources and aims of the criminal law and construction of criminal statutes; specific crimes against person, property and the state; inchoate crimes; defenses negating culpability; and the principles of responsibility and justification.
  • Criminal Procedure: Adjudication
    (Formerly Criminal Procedure II) This course examines various issues associated with criminal adjudications with a focus on federal constitutional rights. The course covers issues such as the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, bail and pretrial detention, discovery, the plea bargaining process, speedy trial rights, federal sentencing guidelines, and post-conviction review. Students can take Criminal Procedure: Adjudication and Criminal Procedure: Investigation in any order or at the same time. Students who have taken Criminal Procedure II are ineligible to enroll in this course.

Illinois (inactive)

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Catherine M. Grosso & Barbara O’Brien, A Stubborn Legacy: The Overwhelming Importance of Race in Jury Selection in 173 Post-Batson North Carolina Capital Trials (forthcoming in the University of Iowa Law Review).

Barbara O’Brien & Catherine M. Grosso, Confronting Race: How a Confluence of Social Movements Convinced North Carolina to Go where the McCleskey Court Wouldn't (forthcoming in the Michigan State Law Review).

Barbara O'Brien, Samuel Sommers, & Phoebe C. Ellsworth, Ask and What Shall Ye Receive? A Guide for Using and Interpreting What Jurors Tell Us (forthcoming in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Social Change).

Barbara O'Brien & Daphna Oyserman, The Shield of Defense or the Sword of Prosecution: How Self-Regulatory Focus Relates to Responses to Crime, 40 J. of Applied Soc. Psychol. 1849 (2010).

Barbara O'Brien, A Recipe for Bias: An Empirical Look at the Interplay Between Institutional Incentives and Bounded Rationality in Prosecutorial Decision Making, 74 Mo. L. Rev. 999 (2009).

Barbara O'Brien, Prime Suspect: An Examination of Factors that Aggravate and Counteract Confirmation Bias in Criminal Investigations, 15 Psychol. Pub. Pol'y & L. 315 (2009).

Barbara O'Brien & Daphna Oyserman, It's Not Just What You Think, But How You Think about It: The Effect of Situationally-Primed Mindsets on Legal Judgments and Decision-making, 92 Marq. L. Rev. 149 (2008).

Samuel R. Gross & Barbara O'Brien, Frequency and Predictors of False Conviction: Why We Know So Little, and New Data on Capital Cases, 5 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 927 (2008).

Norbert L. Kerr, Franklin J. Boster, Craig R. Callen, Mary E. Braz, Barbara O'Brien, & Irwin Horowitz, Jury Nullification Instructions as Amplifiers of Bias, 6 Int'l Comment. on Evidence, issue 1, article 2 (2008).

Comment, Animal Welfare Reform and the Magic Bullet: The Use and Abuse of Subtherapeutic Doses of Antibiotics in Livestock, 67 U. Colo. L. Rev. 407 (1996).