Prof. William Wicken Discusses His Course, "Murder in the Archives"


Article courtesy of YFile - October 26, 2018

Mario Concordia was convinced that the manslaughter conviction handed down to Italian immigrant Frank Buono in the 1920s was indefensible.

William Wicken

Concordia, now a first-year student at Osgoode Hall Law School, researched the 100-year-old case in detail as part of History 4515, Murder in the Archives, conceived of and taught by Professor William Wicken. Last semester, Concordia served as Buono’s defence lawyer, presenting the case to a jury of his classmates and Wicken, the judge. Concordia’s classroom research partner, Michael Palmieri, acted as prosecutor, insisting that Buono was responsible for the death of his lover, Sophie Kobernick. Cue the courtroom dramatics.

“I honestly believe there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of anything,” Concordia said. “There is a lot of grey area. It’s so clear to me that he was railroaded; the coroner had a bias coming in.”

Concordia came by his conclusions honestly. The focus of Wicken’s course is archival research using primary sources. Student teams of two each choose a historic Ontario murder case and research the details using court documents and other records available from the Ontario Archives, which is located on York University’s Keele Campus.

“The students really work independently in the archives,” Wicken said. “We meet there as a class, but once they have their material, they can work on their own. The archivist provides an overview of the material that can be found, and then they have access to this modern facility.”  [Read More]