REVISION: Interrogation as a Thermometer of Public Fear

By Sherry F. Colb

Interrogation as a Thermometer of Public Fear (reviewing George C. Thomas III & Richard A. Leo, "Confessions Of Guilt: From Torture To Miranda And Beyond") offers a theory of dynamic equilibrium for individual constitutional rights protections. In their book, Thomas and Leo provide an excellent account of legal protection against coerced confessions that ebbs and flows over time rather than having steadily progressed toward the shining beacon of Miranda v. Arizona. The authors convincingly explain the expansion and contraction of interrogation law in terms of perceived threats to public safety and the public’s corresponding willingness to protect suspects in relatively secure versus dangerous times. Colb offers a friendly amendment to the Thomas/Leo thesis, to help explain times of constitutional progress that coincide with heightened rather than reduced threats of private violence. Both law enforcement as an institution, on the one hand, and constitutional limits on law ...

Sherry F. Colb Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar
Photo of Sherry Colb

Contact Information

Cornell Law School
216 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901

Phone: (607) 255-4231
Fax: (607) 255-7193


Bonnie Jo Coughlin
Cornell Law School
213 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901

Professional Biography

Sherry F. Colb earned an A.B. from Columbia College (Valedictorian) and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She clerked for Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. She was a member of the Rutgers University School of Law faculty in Newark when she joined the Cornell faculty and has also held the position of Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and Columbia Law School.

Her research and teaching interests center on issues of constitutional criminal procedure (especially the Fourth Amendment), animal rights, sexual equality, and evidence. Her scholarship has appeared in the Stanford Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, and elsewhere. She has recently published a book about animal rights, Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans (Lantern 2013) and also has written a book about the modern challenges of sex equality, When Sex Counts: Making Babies and Making Law (Rowman & Littlefield 2007). She composes a bi-weekly column on Justia’s Verdict as well as regular posts on the blog, Dorf on Law.

She is admitted to the New York Bar and the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.


A.B., Columbia College, 1988
J.D., Harvard University School of Law, 1991