Meghan J. Ryan

Headshot of Meghan J. Ryan, faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

Co-Director of the Tsai Center for Law, Science and Innovation, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Professor of Law

Full-time faculty





Meghan J. Ryan is an award-winning teacher and scholar working at the intersection of criminal law & procedure, torts, and law & science. Her current research focuses on the impact of evolving science, technology, and cultural values on criminal convictions and punishments, as well as on civil liability and remedies. This includes research on forensic science, wrongful convictions, sentencing, cruel & unusual punishments, and toxic torts.

Professor Ryan received her A.B., magna cum laude, in Chemistry from Harvard University. She earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Minnesota Law School, where she was a member of the Order of the Coif and received the American Law Institute-American Bar Association Scholarship and Leadership Award. She was also a member of both the Minnesota Law Review and the Minnesota Journal of Global Trade.

After graduation, Professor Ryan clerked for the Honorable Roger L. Wollman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. She also practiced law in the trial group at the Minneapolis-based law firm of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, where she focused her practice on commercial and intellectual property litigation, as well as on white collar defense and compliance. Additionally, Professor Ryan has conducted research in the areas of bioinorganic chemistry, molecular biology, and experimental therapeutics at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the SMU faculty, Professor Ryan was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, where she taught Criminal Law, Criminal Process, and Sales.

Area of expertise

  • Law and Science
  • Torts
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Actual Innocence
  • Death Penalty
  • Implicit Bias


A.B., magna cum laude, Harvard University
J.D., magna cum laude, University of Minnesota Law School


Law & Science
Torts I
Torts II
Constitutional Criminal Procedure: Adjudication
Eighth Amendment Law


THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT AND ITS FUTURE IN A NEW AGE OF PUNISHMENT (Cambridge University Press 2020) (with William W. Berry III)


Exorcising Bias (work in progress)

Temporal Retribution (work in progress)

What Is Law and Science? (work in progress)

Underneath Toxic Causation (work in progress)

On Neuro-Dignity and -Diversity in Offender Rehabilitation
(work in progress)

Developing a Scientific Basis for Accurate and Reliable Fingerprint Evidence (work in progress)

The Death of the Evolving Standards of Decency, 51 Florida State University Law Review __ (forthcoming 2024)

Criminal Justice Secrets, 59 American Criminal Law Review 1541 (2022)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Framing Individualized Sentencing for Politics and the Constitution, 58 American Criminal Law Review 1747 (2021) (invited symposium contribution)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Secret Algorithms, IP Rights, and the Public Interest, 21 Nevada Law Journal 61 (2020)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Escaping the Fingerprint Crisis: A Blueprint for Essential Research, 2020 University of Illinois Law Review 763 (2020)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Secret Conviction Programs, 77 Washington & Lee Law Review 269 (2020)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Is Miranda Good News or Bad News for the Police? Lessons in Empirics and the Constitution, 50 Texas Tech Law Review 81 (2017) (invited symposium contribution)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Cruel Techniques, Unusual Secrets, 78 Ohio State Law Journal 403 (2017) (with William W. Berry III)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Privacy, Probability, and Political Pitfalls of Universal DNA Collection, 20 SMU Science and Technology Law Review 3 (2017) (invited contribution)
SMU Repository

Miranda's Truth: The Importance of Adversarial Testing and Dignity in Confession Law, 43 Northern Kentucky Law Review 413 (2017) (invited symposium contribution)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Justice Scalia's Bottom-Up Approach to Shaping the Law, 25 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 297 (2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Taking Dignity Seriously: Excavating the Backdrop of the Eighth Amendment, 2016 University of Illinois Law Review 2129 (2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Taking Another Look at Second-Look Sentencing, 81 Brooklyn Law Review 149 (2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Cultivating Judgment on the Tools of Wrongful Conviction, 68 SMU Law Review 1073 (2015) (with John Adams)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Cited in Rhoades v. Iowa, 880 N.W.2d 431 (Iowa 2016)

Science and the New Rehabilitation, 3 Virginia Journal of Criminal Law 261 (2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Juries and the Criminal Constitution, 65 Alabama Law Review 849 (2014)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Finality and Rehabilitation, 3 Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy 121 (2014) (invited symposium contribution)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Cited in McGhie v.State, No. 78,
2016 WL 447090 (Md. Aug. 24, 2016)
(Raker, J., dissenting)

Cited and quoted parenthetically in Spencer v.
United States, 773 F.3d 1132 (11th Cir. 2014)
(Martin, J., dissenting)

Death and Rehabilitation, 46 U.C. Davis Law Review 1231 (2013)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Missing Jury: The Neglected Role of Juries in Eighth Amendment Punishments Clause Determinations, 64 Florida Law Review 549 (2012)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Proximate Retribution, 48 Houston Law Review 1049 (2012)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Remedying Wrongful Execution, 45 University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 261 (2012)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Judging Cruelty, 44 U.C. Davis Law Review 81 (2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Does the Eighth Amendment Punishments Clause Prohibit Only Punishments That Are Both Cruel and Unusual?, 87 Washington University Law Review 567 (2010)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Cited in In the Matter of Williams, 496 P.3d 289
(Wash. 2021) (en banc)

Cited in several works, including Antonin Scalia &
Bryan A. Garner, Reading the Law: The
Interpretation of Legal Texts

Does Stare Decisis Apply in the Eighth Amendment Death Penalty Context?, 85 North Carolina Law Review 847 (2007)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Can the IRS Silence Religious Organizations?, 40 Indiana Law Review 73 (2007)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Role of Carboxylate Bridges in Modulating Nonheme Diiron(II)O2 Reactivity, 42 Inorganic Chemistry 7519 (2003) (with Miquel Costas, et al.)

Book chapters

A Catholic Perspective on Prison Conditions and Human Dignity (work in progress)

Compensation for Wrongful Conviction in the United States, in COMPENSATION FOR WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS: A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE (2023)

Eighth Amendment Valuesin THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT AND ITS FUTURE IN A NEW AGE OF PUNISHMENT (Cambridge University Press 2020) (with William W. Berry III)

Science Under the Eighth Amendmentin THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT AND ITS FUTURE IN A NEW AGE OF PUNISHMENT (Cambridge University Press 2020)

Other publications

Innocence Ignorance: The Failure to Acknowledge the Fallibility and Dignity Components of Humanity, in VOICES ON INNOCENCE, 68 Florida Law Review 1569 (2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

On the Road to Abolition: The Uncertain Future of Capital Punishment in the United States, Jurist (February 2016)

Lessons from Gitmo, 49 The International Lawyer 229 (2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Innocence, Experimentation and Executions in Oklahoma and Beyond, Jurist (Nov. 3, 2015)

The 2014 SMU Criminal Justice Colloquium: An Introduction, 67 SMU Law Review 489 (2014) (with Jenia Iontcheva Turner)
SMU Repository

Actually Innocent? Exonerations on Appeal, Appellate Judges Educational Institute (2014) (with John Adams)

American Bar Association Resolution and Report on Remedying Wrongful Execution (2014)

Intellectual Disability and Uncertainty in Hall v. Florida, Concurring Opinions (June 7, 2014)  

Turning Back to Electrocution—Reversing the Eighth Amendment Ratchet?, Concurring Opinions (May 25, 2014)

Science, Technology, Judges, and Juries, Concurring Opinions (May 16, 2014)

Is the Death of Capital Punishment Nigh?, Concurring Opinions (May 6, 2014)

Some Quick Teaching Tips from SMU Award-Winning Professors, Center for Teaching Excellence (April 25, 2014)

Criminal Law & Criminal Justice Books (2013) (solicited book review, reviewing  (Book review, reviewing MICHAEL L. PERLIN, MENTAL DISABILITY AND THE DEATH PENALTY: THE SHAME OF THE STATES (2013))

Finding Ways for Students to Discover Their Passions, Center for Teaching Excellence (November. 8, 2013)

Teaching and Tenure, Center for Teaching Excellence (May 6, 2013)

Is the Tide Turning on MOOCs (and Other Online Courses)?, Center for Teaching Excellence (April 30, 2013)

Higher Ed Faculty: Teachers, Mentors, Advisors, Parents, or Friends?, Center for Teaching Excellence (February 13, 2013)

Reflections of a First-Time Classroom Blogger, Center for Teaching Excellence (November 18, 2012)

Training Independent, and Diverse, Thinkers, Center for Teaching Excellence (November 12, 2012)


Select Presentations:

Artificial Intelligence and the Law: The Challenges and Opportunities Every Litigator Should Know, Dallas Bar Association, Dallas, TX (June 13, 2023) (with Robert S. Hill)

The Death of the Evolving Standards of Decency, Issues in Contemporary Punishment: Doctrine, Theory, and Practice, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (via Zoom), New York, NY (Apr. 21, 2023)

A Catholic Perspective on Prison Conditions and Human Dignity, Catholic Legal Scholars Paper Series (via Zoom) (July 27, 2022)

Understanding Criminal Justice Innovations, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School (via Zoom), Philadelphia, PA (Jan. 28, 2022)

Criminal Justice Secrets, Indiana University Maurer School of Law (via Zoom), Bloomington, IN (Apr. 8, 2021)

Moderator, David Gray, Facial Recognition and the Fourth Amendment (by David Gray), SMU Science and Technology Law Review Lecture, SMU Law School (via Zoom), Dallas, TX (Nov. 6, 2020)

Framing Individualized Sentencing for Politics and the Constitution, Prison Brake: Rethinking the Sentencing Status Quo Symposium, Georgetown Law School (via Zoom), Washington, DC (Oct. 20, 2020)

Panelist, SMU Spring Teaching Symposium, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX (Jan. 16, 2020)

The Court’s Criminal Docket: Kahler and Ramos, Supreme Court Preview, SMU Federalist Society, Dallas, TX (Sept. 19, 2019)

The Elements of Tort Law, Law Preview, Dallas, TX (Aug. 5, 2019)

The Elements of Tort Law, Law Preview, Austin, TX (July 31, 2019)

Death, Dignity, and Desert, 2019 Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. (May 31, 2019)

Escaping the Fingerprint Crisis: A Blueprint for Essential Research, Faculty Colloquium, University of Notre Dame Law School, South Bend, IN (Feb. 21, 2019)

The Role of Science Under the Eighth Amendment, Southeastern Association of Law Schools Annual Meeting, Fort Lauderdale, FL (Aug. 8, 2018)

The Pillars of Tort Law, Law Preview, Dallas, TX (July 30, 2018)

Evolving Punishment, Indeterminacy, and Humility in Criminal Sentencing, 18th Annual Fall Conference, University of Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, South Bend, IN (Nov. 10, 2017)

Escaping the Fingerprint Crisis: A Blueprint for Essential Research, American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Tenth Annual Fall Institute, Washington, D.C. (Nov. 2, 2017)

Balancing Dignity and Punishment After Conviction, Emory University, Atlanta, GA (Oct.23, 2017)

For additional presentations, please see C.V.