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The Institute for Forensic Linguistics, Threat Assessment, and Strategic Analysis at Hofstra University

(successor to the Forensic Linguistics Project)

The Forensic Linguistic Project, founded in 2004, merged in 2014 with the Institute for Forensic Linguistics, Threat Assessment, and Strategic Analysis.

The Institute is the current umbrella entity serving as the research, internship, and special projects arm of the Programs in Linguistics: Forensic Linguistics at Hofstra University.

Robert Leonard, Co-director of the Institute
James Fitzgerald, Co-director of the Institute
Tammy Gales, Director of Research

MISSION:

To use the scientific analysis of language to advance the cause of justice in the application of the law, and to promote the study of forensic linguistics.

RATIONALE:

Linguistics is the science of language analysis. Language is key in the judicial system of the U.S. and many other nations. Through language we promulgate laws, issue subpoenas and warrants, question suspects, give testimony, write contracts, claim and deny. Law Enforcement interviews, interrogates, attempts to convince suspects to confess, and collects pretext call and wire-tap conversations as evidence. Attorneys use language to write briefs, make opening and closing arguments, question and cross-examine witnesses. Judges issue orders, write decisions, and charge juries. Just as biology and physics play crucial roles in the interpretation of forensic medical data, linguistics enables a deeper understanding of forensic language phenomena.

ACTIVITIES:

The Institute for Forensic Linguistics, Threat Assessment, and Strategic Analysis conducts original research, accepts outside assignments, and provides internship opportunities for graduate students at Hofstra.

The Institute supervises two types of internships.

  1. As of 2014, the Forensic Linguistics Capital Case Innocence Project began formally accepting cases through the offices of Eric M. Freedman, the Wilzig Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Rights at Hofstra.
    Forensic linguistic interns, supervised by Dr. Leonard, work with Law School interns, supervised by Professor Freedman, in analyzing the evidence and appeal possibilities in capital cases in which language evidence—typically a recorded conversation, an interrogation, or a confession—played a crucial role in a defendant’s conviction and death sentence. Professor Freedman and Dr. Leonard are assisted by attorney Regina Anzalone Kurz, Esq., a Guest Lecturer in the department and liaison between the Forensic Linguistic and Law School interns.
  2. The Institute also accepts a small number of pro bono cases that do not fit the death penalty parameter required by the Forensic Linguistics Capital Case Innocence Project. Forensic linguistic interns assist Dr. Leonard in the analysis of language evidence in these cases, which, for example, might include cases of unknown authorship, trademark, and language crimes such as perjury and solicitation to murder.

The Institute administers research in the areas of discourse analysis and corpus linguistics.

In conjunction with graduate courses taught at Hofstra, students, working under the supervision of Dr. Gales, utilize authentic, that is, actually occurring, language data for such purposes as analyzing the language of false vs. true confessions and creating and analyzing comparison corpora for authorship cases.


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