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Incriminating Silence: How the Unheard Defendant in 12 Angry Men Speaks to Our Now

Time: Oct. 13, 2019, 3:45 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Location: Sutton Pavilion at Syracuse Stage, 820 East Genesee Street

Part of the Syracuse Symposium

Part of the Syracuse Symposium series.

Todd A. Berger (Syracuse University College of Law)
Lanessa Chaplin (NYCLU)
Sanjay Chhablani (Syracuse University College of Law)

All are welcome to this free, public panel discussion scheduled between Sunday performances of 12 Angry Men at Syracuse Stage, focused on issues of race in the American judicial system.

In Reginald Rose's taut and compelling jury room-drama, a 19-year-old man has stood trial for murdering his father. What seems an open-and-shut case is anything but when one of the jurors begins opening other jurors' eyes to the facts. Although never seen or heard -- his absence and silence is his presence -- the dialogue suggests the defendant is a person of color, a "them," an other in the eyes of most of the jury.

This panel discussion with Q&A -- part of this year's Syracuse Symposium on "Silence," -- uses the live theatre performance as a point of departure to discuss systemic race bias in the American criminal justice system and what is gained (or lost) when the object of that bias is silent within the drama.

Panelist bios:

Todd A. Berger joined the College of Law faculty in 2012. He is currently an Associate Professor, serving as Director of Advocacy Programs. Berger's scholarship concentrates in the areas of criminal law and procedure, as well as the intersection of trial advocacy and attorney ethics.

Lenessa L. Chaplin, Esq., is Project Counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union. Immediately prior to joining NYCLU she was lead attorney for the Volunteer Lawyers Project, where she defended formerly incarnated individuals from employment discrimination. She began her legal career in 2012 at Hiscock Legal Aide’s Appellate division where she drafted appeals on behalf of inmates to right the wrongs of the lower courts. Her work with the incarcerated population sparked her interest in public policies. Lanessa served as Legal Counsel to Assembly member Sam Roberts and went on to serve as the Deputy Secretary to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly, working closely on anti-poverty initiatives, and criminal justice reform. Most notably, she is the Founder and Executive Director of the William Herbert Johnson Bar Association of Central New York, the only minority bar association in the region. Lanessa is a native of Syracuse NY and a proud Henninger Black Knight. 

Sanjay Chhablani's teaching and research focusses on criminal law and procedure. His scholarly work has addressed the Sixth Amendment, the right to counsel, the right to jury trial and the death penalty. Chhablani also teaches at the Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute at Syracuse University and collaborates with the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program at SUNY Upstate Medical University.


Tina Morgan, Syracuse Stage