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A Crime of Self-Defense: Bernhard Goetz and the Law on Trial Paperback – June 15, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0226253343 ISBN-10: 0226253341

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A Crime of Self-Defense: Bernhard Goetz and the Law on Trial + No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times (Wall Street Journal Book)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (June 15, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226253341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226253343
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Those wanting a sensationalized account of the controversial case of Bernhard Goetz, who shot four young black men on a New York subway in 1984, are advised to look elsewhere. This study by a law professor at Columbia University is a measured examination of the case from its investigation to the sentencing of the defendant, with emphasis on the legal question involved. Fletcher supports the advocacy system used in American courtrooms and emphasizes its stress on reason in the law. He explains the law as it applies to self-defense: an attack must be imminent, the defender's response must be both necessary and proportional, and the defender must act with the intention of thwarting the attack. The author lays this groundwork carefully to show why the jury found Goetz innocent of the major charges against him. In the tradition of legal scholarship, Fletcher does not present his personal views on the case.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This thought-provoking analysis of legal issues concerns the Goetz case. Goetz, the so-called "subway vigilante," shot four black teenagers on the subway in New York City. His main alibi was self-defense. Fletcher, a Columbia University law professor, discusses the judicial history and interpretation of self-defense. He then leads us through the trial, which resulted in Goetz's acquittal on all charges except gun possession. Fletcher dwells at length on implications, balancing a person's right to self-defense vs. society's need to maintain order. Though the analysis is highly legalistic, Fletcher conveys his ideas in a style easily understood by lay readers. Highly recommended. Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib. Cambridge, Mass.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David Graham on February 11, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
....
Anyway, I checked this book out at the library about a year ago. I chose it because (a) as a libertarian, I am interested in the legal right to self-defense, and (b) I was, and still am, planning to go to law school. What struck me is that the book is far more than just an account of the Goetz trial. Fletcher uses the issues raised by the trial as a springboard for exploring deeper issues. For example, are there limits to the scope of preventive, or "prophylactic," laws? (Anti-gun laws are preventive laws.) Here is Fletcher describing the rationale for so-called prophylactic laws:
"Possession offences do not prohibit wrongful deeds. Rather they regulate
behavior so that people never reach the stage of using the prohibited
article in a harmful or wrongful way. There is nothing per se immoral or
wicked about a single instance of possessing narcotics, guns, or counterfeit
plates. But it might be better for society as a whole to eliminate
these articles from circulation. Possession offenses are addressed
not to the single incident, but to the entire class of problematic
events....Lawyers express regulatory purpose of possession offenses by
referring to them as 'prophylactic offenses.'"
While writing an essay on child pornography laws about a month after reading Fletcher's book, I found myself thinking back to the above passage. I realized that laws prohibiting the possession of child pornography are prophylactic. I ended up using the excerpt in my essay.
Fletcher also introduces the reader to the Model Penal Code. Written in 1962 by lawyers and legal scholars, this project was an attempt to codify the criminal codes of all 50 states, along with the U.S. criminal code and that of Washington D.C., into one code.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Giranio on April 19, 2010
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This is a fascinating book in that it not only focuses on the Goetz subway shootings of over 25 years ago, but analizes and takes a microscopic look at New York law--its assets and liabilities. A Crime of Self-Defense had my interest from the first page to the last. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Biblio-Nut on July 24, 2013
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Before there was George Zimmerman and Stand Your Ground in Florida there was Bernhard Goetz in New York City, a white male age 37, who in 1984 shot four young black men who accosted him on a subway car asking for money. Goetz was eventually charged with attempted murder and criminal weapons charges. Goetz pleaded not guilty by reason of self-defense. He was acquitted of attempted murder but not on the weapons charges, for which he was sentenced to 6 months jail time. The Goetz shootings and trial divided both the city and nation. Goetz had strong support among whites and law and order advocates. On the other side, the minority and liberal communities condemned the shooting; Goetz's acquittal for attempted murder; and the light sentence handed down on the weapons charges. Goetz did lose a civil suite led by radical lawyer WILLIAM Kunstler on behalf of one of the shooting victims, leading to a $43 million judgement. Goetz claims he never paid a penny on the judgement.

This book is one of three that were eventually written on the Goetz shootings and trial. The author was a Columbia University law professor, and he is good at discussing the trial tactics and the legal issues surrounding the Goetz shootings, especially the self-defense arguments that resulted in Goetz's acquittal of attempted murder. As such, the book is still relevant today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. Stull on January 8, 2014
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You have to be interested in murder trials to get into this book. Alot goes on during a trial in how a case is prosecuted and how the defense builds their own case.
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I needed this book for a Criminal Justice class that was coming into my media center to do research on assassins and the trials. This was perfect. Its hard to find books on one specific criminal
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