Research

Conference presentations

ESFLC

European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference

(15-17 September 2021)

"There is no justice for anyone if someone is wrongfully convicted. It only creates more victims”: Linguistic insights into wrongful convictions through an interview with exoneree Kristine Bunch

Abstract

With more and more wrongful convictions emerging, it is evident their occurrence has reached global heights and they are far more frequent than one may imagine (cf. Garrett 2011). Many cases (e.g. the Central Park Five, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, Amanda Knox, all released as Netflix documentaries) are merely the tip of the iceberg, but nonetheless give us a good indication of the flaws clearly inherent in the justice system worldwide. Far too many innocent people have had or are having their freedom taken away without rhyme or reason; one such case is that of Kristine Bunch, a young mum at the time, who shares her story as an exoneree with us. Kristine was wrongfully accused and, later, wrongfully convicted of the death of her son, which led to her spending 17 years in prison for a crime that was never even committed. To examine how Kristine represents what she was put through at the hands of the law, I apply a systemic functional linguistics approach and examine the transitivity patterns (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014) present in a Zoom interview with Kristine. Using the UAM Corpus Tool (O’Donnell 2019), a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the interview is conducted, adhering to three main aims: (i) to draw awareness to the issue of wrongful convictions more generally; (ii) to help ensure that exonerees like Kristine continue to be heard; and (iii) to reveal how, through her discourse, Kristine represents what happened to her and those affected by her wrongful conviction.

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IAFL15

International Association of Forensic Linguistics 

(13-15 September 2021)

"They withheld 201 statements from our defence team and we never got them til 17 years later”: Insights into one brave man's experience of being let down by the justice system

Abstract

The Innocence Project, set up in the USA in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at the Cardozo School of Law (Yeshiva University, New York), strives to reform the US justice system by helping to exonerate individuals who have been wrongfully convicted. Since its emergence, 69 Innocence Network organizations have been established worldwide, offering pro-bono legal and investigative services to anyone seeking to prove their innocence whilst incarcerated. This paper deals with one case taken on by the UK Innocence network. An innocent man, known under the alias AMBER, spent almost 20 years behind bars before being exonerated of a murder he never committed. Using the transitivity framework (Bartley, 2017; Fawcett & Schultz, 2010; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014), deriving from Systemic Functional Grammar, an interview with this UK-based exoneree is examined. transitivity, as Halliday and Matthiessen explain, comprises 3 components (i.e. processes, participants and circumstances), which serve to enable us ‘to organize the wealth of our experience, both semantically and syntactically’ (Downing & Locke 1992, p. 123). Thus, here a transitivity analysis is expected to offer insights into how, through his discourse, AMBER represents his experience as a survivor of the British justice system. The goal in this paper is twofold: (i) to give this exoneree a voice beyond the press (cf. Campbell & Denov, 2004; Roberts & Stanton, 2007) and, (ii) to draw attention, through the voice of AMBER, to the prevalence of wrongful convictions in society more generally (cf. Clow & Leach, 2015).

SFLIG

Systemic Functional Linguistics Interest Group Conference

(16-19 November 2021)

“The jogger and the wolfpack”: Analysing the transitivity patterns in the coverage of the Central Park Five case.

Abstract

With more and more wrongful convictions emerging, it is evident their occurrence has reached global heights and they are far more frequent than one may imagine (cf. Garrett 2011). Many cases (e.g. the Central Park Five, Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, Amanda Knox, all released as Netflix documentaries) are merely the tip of the iceberg, but nonetheless give us a good indication of the flaws clearly inherent in the justice system worldwide. Far too many innocent people have had or are having their freedom taken away without rhyme or reason; one such case is that of Kristine Bunch, a young mum at the time, who shares her story as an exoneree with us. Kristine was wrongfully accused and, later, wrongfully convicted of the death of her son, which led to her spending 17 years in prison for a crime that was never even committed. To examine how Kristine represents what she was put through at the hands of the law, I apply a systemic functional linguistics approach and examine the transitivity patterns (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2014) present in a Zoom interview with Kristine. Using the UAM Corpus Tool (O’Donnell 2019), a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the interview is conducted, adhering to three main aims: (i) to draw awareness to the issue of wrongful convictions more generally; (ii) to help ensure that exonerees like Kristine continue to be heard; and (iii) to reveal how, through her discourse, Kristine represents what happened to her and those affected by her wrongful conviction.

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Abstract