It all started eight years ago with a videotaped lecture he gave to prospective law students.
Regent University School of Law professor James Duane had given his “Don’t Talk to the Police” – his lecture on the Fifth Amendment—talk dozens of times before.
“I’d been doing this thing for years, but I’d never taped any of them,” said Duane.
But this time, he made an exception: He invited his current students to join in on the lecture. And when a few students couldn’t make it to the class in real-time, he put it on Regent’s website and sent it to 40-some students via email.
A week later, he received a phone call from the head of the university’s IT department.
“She said, ‘Jim, we’ve got a problem over here,” said Duane.
The video had attracted such a high volume of viewers that the school’s server was unable to handle it. Duane agreed to release the video onto what was then known as “iTunes University,” a forum for internet-users to browse and download videos from different schools.
“That’s when it all began, people started downloading it and put it on all kinds of websites,” said Duane. “That video went viral and it changed my life.”
Duane recalls the first day he learned that his lecture had been uploaded onto YouTube when a colleague told him that it had reached 2,000 views.
“It blew my mind, I was shocked. 2,000? That’s a lot of views for a law professor,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘gosh, if I had known 2,000 people were going to watch it I would’ve done a better job.”
To this day, several versions of the video have been uploaded for a total of 21 million all-time viewership and counting. In fact, the video has gained such popularity that Duane is recognized in public.
“I’ve heard some strange things: I was speaking about this subject at a college and a young man came up to me and said they had my video on a loop all throughout a party on campus,” said Duane. “It was the soundtrack of the party, that’s pretty bizarre.”
So, in the summer of 2015, when a publisher from Amazon approached him about writing a short book based on the video’s astounding popularity, Duane was hesitant.
“I was dubious,” he said. “Who would buy the book if the video is online? And [the publisher] said, ‘Trust me, this could sell.’”
His book, You Have the Right to Remain Innocent launched September 2016. Now, it sits at the number one spot in Amazon’s Kindle Store in the Law, Practical Guides section. He believes the theme of the book, “the protection of the underdog,” is a message that resonates with people who hold beliefs across the entire political ideology spectrum.
“Nobody likes unfairness,” said Duane. “There’s a God-given trait within every one of us that instinctively recoils at the thought of unfairness.”
The book takes a deep-dive into real cases where real people were honestly convicted – many of them later proved to be innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt. Duane poured over the transcripts of these cases to nail down how these false convictions happen in the first place:
“Police officers use techniques that are really quite effective in getting the guilty people to confess,” said Duane. “But they’re too effective, because they too often work on innocent people.”
Duane explained that oftentimes a suspect is all too willing to talk to police.
“They think, ‘I have nothing to hide, why shouldn’t I? I’m innocent, I’m glad to cooperate,’” said Duane. “Because they’re naïve, because they don’t understand the risk they face, they don’t understand how the system works.”
This book, he said, was written for them.
Learn more about Regent University’s School of Law.