Forum to explore ethical challenges of cold case

October 26, 2015
Dr. Patrick Solar
Dr. Amy Nemmetz

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s College of Liberal Arts and Education will present a faculty forum, “Ethical Challenges of the Oldest Cold Case in History,” on Thursday, Nov. 5, in 136 Doudna Hall from 5-6:30 p.m. The forum is free and open to university students, faculty, staff and community members.

At the forum, Dr. Patrick Solar, assistant professor of criminal justice at UW-Platteville, will discuss the police investigation and prosecution strategy of the Maria Ridulph case, believed to be the oldest unsolved murder case in the United States.

Solar will explain the case’s ethical challenges, which included the decisions to pursue a new case investigation based on new information, to take the risk of pursuing prosecution with no direct evidence and weak circumstantial evidence and to first prosecute the defendant for the rape of his half-sister 54 years prior, where the only evidence was the testimony of the victim.

“This case is important because it provides a real-life example of how judgments by police and prosecutors shape the essence of justice in our system,” said Solar. “The priorities and discretion exercised by police and prosecutors in the pursuit of justice can, and do, have dramatic impacts on the people involved. Discretion on the part of those working within the criminal justice system needs to be governed by solid ethical principles.” 

Following Solar’s discussion, Dr. Amy Nemmetz, assistant professor of criminal justice at UW-Platteville, will discuss best practices for working with victims and reducing system re-victimization, which includes limiting the number of times victims are forced to tell their story. She will also discuss the importance of using a forensic interview protocol to reduce the harm caused to victims, the multiple ways criminal justice professionals can keep victims informed and the ongoing trauma victims often feel if/when they feel trapped in the criminal justice system rollercoaster.

“Fortunately, there have been several victim-based strides in the criminal justice system,” said Nemmetz. “Yet, there are still so many hurdles that victims of crimes must face while their cases remain open. Minimally, it is important for criminal justice and related professionals to remember to listen to victims, help them feel safe and keep them informed about what lies ahead.”

The LAE Faculty Forum Series, a program instituted in the fall of 2004, is sponsored by UW-Platteville’s College of Liberal Arts and Education. The purpose of the forum is to allow faculty to present information in their research areas to university faculty, staff, students and community members. Presenters tailor their presentations to a general audience.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The LAE Faculty Forum Series aligns with three of the priorities: providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect and enriching the tri-states.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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