Randolph N. Jonakait

Professor of Law

Randolph N. Jonakait

Randolph N. Jonakait has devoted his career to the criminal justice system—working in it, monitoring it, writing about it, and now teaching it.

After finishing his law studies, Professor Jonakait joined the Criminal Defense Division of the New York City Legal Aid Society. He spent the next eight years there working on a full range of felony cases.

It was a time, he recalls, when the court system was expanding and he handled an extraordinary number of cases, going to trial almost 30 times during his first 15 months alone. As part of the Test Case Unit, he was involved in cases that ranged from allegations of police brutality to challenges of inadequate interview facilities for defendants.

In many ways, Professor Jonakait views his work as a public defender as a continuation of the work he had done as a Garfield Graduate fellow with organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York City Human Rights Commission. Both, he says, sought to put a check on potential government abuses. He was involved in a major study by the ACLU and the United Church of Christ of the military chaplaincy that was later described in a book he helped write, titled The Abuses of Military Chaplaincy.

While at Legal Aid, Professor Jonakait served as a consultant to the National Wiretap Commission, a watchdog agency that had him going into courtrooms to monitor the performance of different courts and jurisdictions.

In 1979, Professor Jonakait took leave for a year from Legal Aid to accept a position at Pace Law School. He enjoyed teaching so much that he decided to continue in the academic world, and in 1983, he joined the faculty of New York Law School where he started teaching Criminal Law and Procedure and Evidence.

Several years after he came to the Law School, he started the Criminal Appellate Clinic, to give students the experience of working with a real case record, an area he felt was largely ignored in most legal education. The clinic enables students to file an appeal on behalf of a Legal Aid client, and has proven valuable for students hoping to work as public defenders.

During the past two decades, Professor Jonakait has written extensively about forensic science and its impact in the courtroom, as well as on the intersection of criminal procedure and evidence. His book, New York Evidentiary Foundations (Lexis Law Publishing, 1998), is designed for beginning attorneys to help bridge the gap between law school and practice.

Professor Jonakait’s latest work, The American Jury System, is a history and description of the U.S. jury system and how it fits into the overall judicial system. Designed for the educated lay audience, it was published by Yale University Press in 2003.

After nearly 30 years observing the jury system at work, he feels it basically performs well, though there are changes he would like to see discussed.

“We need to find more accurate ways to generate information for the jury. For example, there are better and more accurate ways to do a line-up and we need to institutionalize these improvements,” he explains. “There’s been a revolution in what’s admissible and the debate has centered on what a jury should hear. I think we need to push the debate back to examine how we produce better evidence.”


The American Jury System. (Yale University Press, 2003).

New York Evidentiary Foundations. 2nd ed. (Lexis Law Publishing, 1994) (with H. Baer, E.S. Jones & E. Imwinkelried) (Annual Supplements).

The Abuses of the Military Chaplaincy. (ACLU, 1973).



“Is the Military Chaplaincy Constitutional?” Chapter 5 in Military Chaplains: From Religious Military to a Military Religion, at 129–137 (H.G. Cox, ed.). American Report Press, 1973.



“The Two Hemispheres of Legal Education and the Rise and Fall of Local Law Schools” (New York Law School Faculty Presentation Day III), 51 New York Law School Law Review 863-905 (2006-2007).

“‘Witnesses’ in the Confrontation Clause: Crawford v. Washington, Noah Webster, and Compulsory Process,” 79 Temple Law Review 155-198 (2006).

“The Too Easy Historical Assumptions of Crawford v. Washington,” Brooklyn Law Review 219-233 (2005).

Rasul v. Bush: Unanswered Questions,” 13 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 1103-1138 (2005).

“A Double Due Process Denial: The Crime of Providing Material Support or Resources to Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (Symposium: Criminal Defense in the Age of Terrorism), 48 New York Law School Law Review 125–172 (2003/04).

People v. Molineux and Other Crime Evidence: One Hundred Years and Counting,” 40 American Journal of Criminal Law 1–43 (2003).

“The Standard of Appellate Review for Scientific Evidence: Beyond Joiner and Scheffer.” 32 U.C. Davis Law Review 289–340 (1999).

“Secret Testimony and Public Trials in New York.” 42 New York Law School Law Review 407–446 (1998).

“‘MY GOD!’ Is This How a Feminist Analyzes Excited Utterances?” Review of article “‘MY GOD!’: A Feminist Critique of the Excited Utterance Exception to the Hearsay Rule,” by Aviva Orenstei. 4 William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law 263–294 (1997).

“The Assessment of Expertise: Transcending Construction.” 37 Santa Clara Law Review 301–347 (1997).

“Text, Texts, or Ad Hoc Determinations: Interpretation of the Federal Rules of Evidence.” 71 Indiana Law Journal 551–591 (1996).

“The Origins of the Confrontation Clause: An Alternative History.” 27 Rutgers Law Journal 77–168 (1995).

“Coconspirator Statements and Former Testimony in New York and Federal Courts with Some Comments on Codification (Symposium: Comparing New York and Federal Evidence Law).” 11 Touro Law Review 37–56 (1994).

“The Meaning of Daubert and What That Means for Forensic Science.” 15 Cardozo Law Review 2103–2117 (1994).

“Insuring Reliable Fact Finding in Guidelines Sentencing: Why Not Real Evidence Rules?” 22 Capital University Law Review 31–44 (1993).

“Real Science and Forensic Science.” 1 Shepard’s Expert & Scientific Evidence Quarterly 435–455 (1993), at 448–455. Reprinted in An Evidence Anthology, at 122–126 (E.J. Imwinkelried & G. Weissenberger, eds., Anderson, 1996).

“Biased Evidence Rules: A Framework for Judicial Analysis and Reform.” 1992 Utah Law Review 67–99.

“Foreword: Notes for a Consistent and Meaningful Sixth Amendment.” 82 Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 713–746 (1992).

“Making the Law of Factual Determinations Matter More.” 25 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 673–688 (1992).

“The Right to Confrontation: Not a Mere Restraint on Government.” 76 Minnesota Law Review 615–621 (1992).

“Forensic Science: The Need for Regulation.” 4 Harvard Journal of Law & Technology 109–191 (1991).

“Stories, Forensic Science, and Improved Verdicts.” 13 Cardozo Law Review 343–352 (1991).

“The Supreme Court, Plain Meaning, and the Changed Rules of Evidence.” 68 Texas Law Review 745–786 (1990), at 782–786. Reprinted in An Evidence Anthology, at 51–53 (E.J. Imwinkelried & G. Weissenberger, eds.). Anderson, 1996.

“Prosecutorial Behavior and Distorted Verdicts.” 24 Criminal Law Bulletin 254–258 (1988).

“Restoring the Confrontation Clause to the Sixth Amendment.” 35 UCLA Law Review 557–622 (1988).

“The Ethical Prosecutor’s Misconduct.” 23 Criminal Law Bulletin 550–567 (1987).

“The Subversion of the Hearsay Rule: The Residual Hearsay Exceptions, Circumstantial Guarantees of Trustworthiness, and Grand Jury Testimony.” 36 Case Western Reserve Law Review 431–481 (1986).

“When Blood is Their Argument: Probabilities in Criminal Cases, Genetic Markers, and, Once Again, Bayes’ Theorem.” 1983 University of Illinois Law Review 369–421.

“Will Blood Tell? Genetic Markers in Criminal Cases.” 31 Emory Law Journal 833–912 (1982).

“Reliable Identification: Could the Supreme Court Tell in Manson v. Brathwaite?” 52 University of Colorado Law Review 511–528 (1981). Reprinted, as abridged, in A Criminal Procedure Anthology, at 391–396 (S.J. Wasserstrom & C.L. Snyder, eds.). Anderson, 1996.

“Two Proposals for Abolishing the Insanity Defense.” Book Reviews of The Insanity Plea: The Uses and Abuses of the Insanity Defense, by William J. Winslade and Judith Wilson Ross; and Madness and the Criminal Law, by Norval Morris. 35 Hastings Law Journal 403–427 (1983).

Book Review of The Best Defense, by Alan M. Dershowitz. 6 Criminal Justice Journal 163–178 (1982).



“Judicial Decisions Generally Ease Burdens of Prosecution; Knowledge Element of Drug Possession is Exception.” 212 New York Law Journal S5 (October 3, 1994).

“Do Art Exhibitions Destroy Common Law Copyright in Works of Art?” 19 Copyright Law Symposium 81–116 (1971).