Crime and punishment

Two students embody lessons taught in law school class

Students in the first-year “Criminal Law” class of John Inazu spent a semester learning about theories of punishment, questions of whether criminal justice can remedy injustice and issues of equity in sentencing. But two students in the fall 2018 class embodied the lessons taught by Inazu, the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law & Religion in the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.

Elizabette (Liz) Privat came to the law school after successfully arguing for the parole of her stepfather, who has been the father figure in her life. Her dad had served 38 years for having committed, and been convicted of, second-degree murder. Privat is a first-generation high school graduate in her family who attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice before coming to Washington University. Her dad now mentors younger men he met in jail and has been a key influence on Privat’s life.

Grayson Cornwell’s sister and his sister’s friend were medical students in California who were both killed by a drunk driver four years ago. The case drew some media attention. Cornwell has thought a lot about punishment related drunk driving, including arguing publicly for leniency for the man who killed his sister.

“Classroom teaching is always a shared endeavor,” Inazu said. “It depends fundamentally on the questions and perspectives that students bring with them. That is certainly true of criminal law, and having students like Grayson and Liz share their lived experiences forces all of us to confront the human dimensions of the object of our study.”