CRJU 350 - Principles and Concepts of Investigation and Reporting

 350-2 - 12114 - R 7-9:45 - H 522

Instructor: Jay Wachtel

This course examines the investigative process, from the receipt of information through testifying in court, with the following goals:  to help students become informed about methods and practices used by police to conduct criminal investigations, to learn the pitfalls and limits of these methods and practices, and to become informed about problematic issues that can adversely affect the investigation process.  Key topical areas include sources of information, interviews and interrogation and the collection and analysis of documentary and physical evidence.  Relevant legal issues and Constitutional safeguards are also addressed.

Required readings

1. Swanson, Chamelin, Territo & Taylor, Criminal Investigation, 9th. Ed. McGraw-Hill, 2005.

2. California Penal and Evidence codes - selected statutes (accessible online)

3. National Institute of Justice reports on Eyewitness ID and DNA evidence (both online)

4. Class website and links.  Students are expected to study the materials and links on this website.  It is otherwise impossible to pass this course.

Required videos

A medium-length essay question will be used to test comprehension of issues covered in each of the following documentary videos.  All will be shown in class (see schedule).

#1, 2 and 4 are available for rental through Blockbuster or Netflix.

#3 is an "instructor special" assembled from video clips.  If you miss seeing this video be sure to carefully study the case on the slide shows and the Internet.  A fictional/based on a true story video, "The Interrogation of Michael Crowe" is available for rental.

#5 is an instructor-assembled slide show with embedded videos from news programs.  A version without the videos is posted on the website for weeks 2-4.

#6 can be viewed online here.

1. "Paradise Lost": the Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (not to be confused with Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, a later, shortened version which is also acceptable)

2. "Murder on a Sunday Morning"

3. "The Murder of Stephanie Crowe"

4. "The Staircase"

5.  Phil Spector trial slide show

6.  "The Creation of False Memories"

Cell phone policy

Cell phones are fine if kept on silent mode.  If you need to make or answer a call please step outside.  You may return when you are done.


NOTE:  No office hours on the day of an exam or class presentation.

Four non-cumulative exams will be given, one after each block of instruction.  Each exam will be comprised of 10 short-answer essays worth 2 points each, testing comprehension of material from readings, the website, online resources, lectures and class discussions, and a single medium-length essay worth 5 points covering the video shown during that block.

Please note that videos are a critical component of this course.  Note-taking during the showings is highly recommended!

A maximum of one makeup exam may be given for a documented emergency.  If you cannot take an exam on the scheduled date, e-mail (telephone if you cannot e-mail) and leave a message. A makeup exam will be left in your name in the "makeup exam" basket in the Political Science division office, UH-511, tel. (714) 278-3521.  Makeups must be taken in the Political Science division office, during normal office hours, by the end of the week following the week in which the regular exam was administered.  Except in the gravest circumstances, failure to take a makeup within this timeframe will result in a grade of "F" for the course.  Assigning an "I"ncomplete is at the instructor´s discretion.

Every exam is a mandatory component of the course.  To earn a grade higher than "F" every exam must be taken.


100 points can be earned during the term - 25 points for each exam.  If necessary, scores will be adjusted ("curved") at the end of the term before a letter grade is assigned.  No extra credit assignments will be given.  I do not use the +/- grading system.

Please note:  It is the instructor's policy to grade from student ID numbers only and not to make changes excepting for a computational error.  Students with special plans, such as attending law school or graduate school, are encouraged to work as hard as possible.  Please do not place either of us in an awkward position by asking for special consideration.


Students with special needs can receive information at the Disabled Student Service Office, UH 101, (714) 278-3117 and at

Special notice about attendance and online materials

As you know I use PowerPoint slides in class.  Many have graphics and video clips.  I also use standalone DVD's, videos and handouts.  There may also be online links and pages with supplemental materials.  Everything, including discussion, is "fair game" for exams.  Here's the best rule: if it's mentioned in class, it's important.

Some students rarely come to class, choosing to rely strictly on the book and the online version of the slide shows.  Online versions are not like what's shown in class, as they lack graphics and video clips.  They also miss discussions, thus miss knowing what I consider most important.  Some who do come don't take notes, so they wind up forgetting what's important.  That's chancy, but it's your decision.

About the website.  There is no guarantee that it will always be "up."  Technology is a fickle thing.  One semester the website went down for most of the day prior to an exam.  If you use the online slide shows or supplemental materials, print them in their entirety well in advance.  Be sure to get the "final" versions, which may not be posted until the day of the corresponding class.

Exams are prepared with those who come to class in mind.  Neither an exam date nor grading will be adjusted because the website went down.

Schedule (subject to change)


1 - 1/24 - Investigation process and environment -- text pp. 49-60, 203-214, 753-758 -- "Paradise Lost"

2 - 1/31 - Legal issues -- text pp. 418-419, 758 - 773 -- relevant sections from California Evidence Code and Penal Code.

3 - 2/7 - Cont'd -- Phil Spector trial.  One or more questions on the first exam will ask you to use this case to illustrate certain legal issues.

4 - 2/14 - 7-8 pm - EXAM 1 (FIRST MODULE)


4 - 2/14 - 8-9:45 PM - Identification -- text pp. 153-157, 215-220 -- NIJ guide (edited classroom version) -- "Murder on a Sunday Morning"

5 - 2/21 - Cont'd

6 - 2/28 - Cont'd

7 - 3/6 - Cont'd

8 - 3/13 - 7-8 pm - EXAM 2 (SECOND MODULE)


8 - 3/13 - 8-9:45 pm - Interrogation --  text pp. 144-178 -- "Murder of Stephanie Crowe" and "The Creation of False Memories"

9- 3/20 - Cont'd

10 - 3/27 - NO CLASS

11 - 4/3 - SPRING BREAK

12 - 4/10 - Cont'd

13 - 4/17 - 7-8 pm - EXAM 3 (THIRD MODULE)


13 - 4/17 - 8-9:45 PM - Physical evidence -- Introduction -- website weeks 11-16 -- text pp. 60-90, 94-137 -- "The Staircase"

14 - 4/24 - Cont'd

15 - 5/1 - Cont'd, DNA -- text pp. 244-267, NIJ report on DNA

16 - 5/8 - Cont'd, prints and impressions

17 - 5/15 - 7:30-9:20 - FINAL EXAM (FOURTH MODULE)