Harnessing Virtual Reality to Prevent Prosecutorial Misconduct

57 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2018 Last revised: 1 Oct 2019

Date Written: March 2, 2018


Prosecutorial failure to disclose material exculpatory evidence has put innocent people on death row and left others languishing in prison for decades. More than half a century ago, in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution requires prosecutors in criminal cases to disclose such evidence to the defense. Scholars now attribute much of this failure to cognitive biases, which can cause distortions in information processing. This Article proposes a novel approach for preventing such prosecutorial error. Applying recent advances in cognitive science research, the Article explores the potential for immersive virtual experiences to disrupt cognitive biases. Disrupting such biases could enable prosecutors to more effectively see the exculpatory nature of evidence and be inclined to disclose that evidence. If the power of digital avatars can be harnessed for this purpose, avatars may reinforce or re-introduce self-regulation as a first line of defense against Brady violations.

Keywords: Brady error, virtual reality, cognitive bias, exculpatory evidence, avatar, prosecutorial misconduct, Brady v. Maryland, immersive virtual environment

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Bloch, Kate, Harnessing Virtual Reality to Prevent Prosecutorial Misconduct (March 2, 2018). 32 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 1 (2019), UC Hastings Research Paper No. 325, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3300360

Kate Bloch (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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