Ian Burney, “Presumed Innocent: The Legacy of Erle Stanley Gardner” | National Humanities Center


Ian Burney, “Presumed Innocent: The Legacy of Erle Stanley Gardner”

May 15, 2020

Erle Stanley Gardner is remembered as a best-selling author and the creator of the fictional lawyer Perry Mason, a hard-nosed criminal defense attorney with a penchant for taking on hopeless cases. Mason’s heroic efforts to establish the innocence of his clients—first in novels, then films, radio, and television—captured the imaginations of Americans for four decades. Gardner’s interest in highlighting and reversing miscarriages of justice, however, extended well beyond the realm of fiction into the experiences of real-life defendants. He established “The Court of Last Resort,” a project working on behalf of defendants who had suffered from poor legal representation, misinterpretation of evidence, or the malicious actions of police and prosecutors.

In this podcast, Ian Burney, professor of the history of science, technology, and medicine at the University of Manchester, discusses his new book which explores the methods Gardner and his colleagues used to establish the innocence of those wrongly convicted in an era long before the use of DNA evidence, setting precedents for how we think about establishing innocence up to the present moment.

Ian Burney
Ian Burney, University of Manchester
Ian Burney is professor of history at the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He received his B.A. from Brown University and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, and was a junior fellow at the Michigan Society of Fellows before moving to the U.K. His research sits at the crossroads of the social and cultural histories of medicine, science, and the law, and has resulted in three monographs: Bodies of Evidence: Medicine and the Politics of the English Inquest (Hopkins, 2000), Poison, Detection and the Victorian Imagination (Manchester, 2006), and Murder and the Making of English CSI (Hopkins, 2016). His most recent book is Global Forensic Cultures: Making Fact and Justice in the Modern Era (Hopkins, 2019), a collection of essays which he co-edited with the Notre Dame historian of science Chris Hamlin.