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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing and Frightening
This book pulls no punches and contains no fancy words. Harold Rothwax tells it like it is....
When the criminal justice system fails, and the obviously and often admittedly guilty go free to wreak more havoc on innocent citizens, we should feel outraged... and I'd guess that we do, when we hear about it as we do infrequently. But the sympathy extended to the...
Published on July 28, 2001 by D. Rizzo

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rothwax: Guilty of Pointless Whining
The author attempts to present an indictment of the U.S. criminal justice system, but unfortunately his analysis does not stand up to scrutiny. This is not a well-researched book, but rather it is based on the author's own personal experiences as a Judge in New York City. Consequently, his examples do not apply generally to U.S. justice.

For example, in his...
Published on October 4, 2012 by Jerry Weaver


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing and Frightening, July 28, 2001
By 
D. Rizzo (United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice (Paperback)
This book pulls no punches and contains no fancy words. Harold Rothwax tells it like it is....
When the criminal justice system fails, and the obviously and often admittedly guilty go free to wreak more havoc on innocent citizens, we should feel outraged... and I'd guess that we do, when we hear about it as we do infrequently. But the sympathy extended to the perpetrators of violent crimes is both misplaced and as wrong as the crimes themselves. Rothwax, a judge, sees these decisions made routinely, as he deals with their aftermath. He is outraged. He is beyond outraged.
He makes a compelling case for a modification in our criminal justice system. Criminal juries shouldn't need 100% agreement to deliver a verdict, which they already don't need in civil cases. One lone kook shouldn't hold up what's obvious to a clear majority. He suggests forgetting Miranda... if someone is screaming confessions, it's a CONFESSION. What a lot of effort, time, and money those confessions save! Getting criminals off on technicalities -- especially technicalities that lawyers search for painstakingly with the sole goal of getting their clients off -- is a perverse and morally reprehensible function of the court, and it should be inadmissable when the parties involved behaved with logic and discretion to the satisfaction of the court.
The cases that Rothwax cites, cases in which innocent adults and children suffered at the hands of a meticulous and ill-advised court, will break your heart and make you scream for justice.
For this is a book about justice. It is not a book about law. Unfortunately, the two diverge more than the American public would like to acknowledge.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Eye-Opening, if Apocolyptic Look At the Justice System, June 22, 2000
By 
Andy Brown (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice (Paperback)
While almost all would agree that the American judicial system has its flaws, Judge Harold Rothwax proposes some of the most drastic changes to the system I have encountered. If Judge Rothwax's experiences in the New York City courts have transformed him from a card-carrying ACLU member to a staunch advocate for the revocation of Miranda and search-and-seizure laws, then I am in fear of what truly occurs in our courtrooms.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source of information, but read between the lines., June 12, 1996
By A Customer
Judge Rothwax is committed to improving the criminal justice system at almost any cost.
While his insights are thought-provoking his review of the problems tend to lack
analysis of possible solutions. Albeit, there are no easy answers to what ails the
justice system -- particularly in New York -- but it is difficult to accept his
harsh criticisms of the system without a more thorough analysis.

Overall this is an excellent book for people who have a sense of what courtroom life
is about (and not from Court TV), are interested in the issues of social justice and the
implications of the basic principal of "innocent until proven guilty". Judge Rothwax does an
excellent job of stimulating this debate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Our criminal justice system is in need of substantial reform, November 13, 2004
By 
Jill Malter (jillmalter@aol.com) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice (Paperback)
Here is a book from a judge that reviews some obvious problems with our criminal justice system. Some of these problems have been most obvious in high-profile cases, but that in no way means that the system is working for low-profile ones, as Rothwax shows.

Rothwax starts by making a very strong point. The main problem is that criminal justice rarely involves a search for the truth. It is all well and good to discuss police misconduct or various extenuating factors, but none of this is proper until you answer what ought to be the very first question: did the defendant commit the crime? If you get that answer right, you can try to make a just ruling. If you can't get that one right, that is a big problem.

And in some cases, the evidence of guilt is simply suppressed. How can that help us produce justice?

One very good recommendation that Rothwax makes is to have defendents come up with their side of the story in a sealed envelope. Defendants would not be required to do this: they'd need to do it only if they wanted to see the prosecution's case via pretrial discovery. As things stand, they change their stories to fit the prosecution case. As Rothwax says, they'll start with "I wasn't there!" And when the prosecution has a video to disprove that, they'll say "It was self-defence!" And when the prosecution proves that the victim had no weapon, they'll say "I was crazy!" Stories are concocted to fit the facts the prosecution has discovered. The Menendez and O. J. Simpson trials are dramatic examples of this.

Rothwax's point is simple: "truth must be the goal of any rational procedural system."

Next we get to laws about search and seizure. These are shown to be hopelessly confusing, particularly when it is vehicles that are being searched or seized. Rothwax says that we should get rid of the mandatory "exclusionary rule," and replace it by a reasonableness criterion, as is done in Germany, for example.

The Miranda rule is discussed after that. While it has been useful in some cases to avoid having people get browbeaten into confessing to crimes, it is sometimes wrongfully applied to voluntary confessions. Once again, the first question ought to be: did the defendant commit the crime? If we answer that one correctly, we can proceed from there. We may even let a guilty person go free because the police mistreated him, but it ought to be with the full legal knowledge that he committed the crime he was accused of. Rothwax points out that the effect of Miranda is to say to a defendant "I urge you not to confess." It helps make trials a kind of game in which any defendant always has a sporting chance to escape, and that is quite a ways from truth or justice.

Two more points that Rothwax makes include the fact that peremptory challenges of jurors should be disallowed (they tend to result in stacking the jury), and that juries should be told to regard the refusal of a defendant to testify to explain what would normally be considered evidence against him as indicating the truth of that evidence.

But perhaps the best point of all that the author makes is that juries simply are very poor determiners of truth.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rothwax: Guilty of Pointless Whining, October 4, 2012
This review is from: Guilty (Hardcover)
The author attempts to present an indictment of the U.S. criminal justice system, but unfortunately his analysis does not stand up to scrutiny. This is not a well-researched book, but rather it is based on the author's own personal experiences as a Judge in New York City. Consequently, his examples do not apply generally to U.S. justice.

For example, in his chapter on plea bargaining he cites a defendant with many prior shoplifting arrests, and he says that in some of those cases "the prosecutor actually undercharged because he lacked the resources to charge a woman who steals more than a thousand dollars from Macy's with grand larceny. He needed to use his limited resources for the murderers, rapists, burglars, and so on. It's pretty common for felonies to be under charged in this way."

This bold statement is completely out of line with my experience over the past four decades. The idea of undercharging is unheard-of in any jurisdiction I know about. Rather, the issue which comes up is just the opposite, it is overcharging, not undercharging. Prosecutors often overcharge so as to have leverage in the pre-trial plea bargaining process. Thus, the real situation is just the opposite of what Rothwax would have us believe.

The main thrust of Rothwax's complaints are rules which he says tend to obscure the pursuit of truth. He whines incessantly about guilty defendants going free for reasons other than that they didn't do the crime. He doesn't like the exclusionary rule, under which evidence seized in violation of the fourth amendment cannot be used in court. He doesn't like the rule requiring police to give a suspect the Miranda warnings. He doesn't like the rule allowing a defendant a lawyer when he requests one during the investigative phase of the proceeding (i.e., before charges are brought). He doesn't like the speedy trial rule, requiring a defendant to be brought to trial within a certain number of days after charges are brought against him. And he doesn't like the rule requiring convictions to be by a unanimous jury verdict (he feels 11-1 or 10-2 would be OK).

Most of these positions do not stand up to analysis, and I won't belabor them all here. For example, he complains that the rules concerning when a search warrant is required are so complex that no police officer can be expected to know them. He says even Judges cannot know these rules, so complicated and subject to change that they are. But look at his solution: it is to apply a case-by-case standard of reasonableness! So what he wants to do is to substitute no standard at all for existing standards. And this simplifies things for the police how?

And this is generally his solution, to apply reasonable standards instead of hard-and fast rules. Rothwax does not seem to understand that the rules are there for a reason, and that the price of guilty defendants occasionally going free is a price we as a society have chosen to pay for having these protections in place, protections which are there to protect all citizens against government overreaching.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth about the law to the American people, September 20, 1998
By A Customer
Judge Rothwax has done an excellent work of telling us the truth in an easy to read format. The text reads well and was worth the effort to read it non-stop in four hours. If you had doubts about the current judical system this should scare the hell out of you to hear from the bench how criminals are often the winners in our judical system while law abiding citizens are the victims.
I wish Judge Rothwax would have given some of his personal history on how a former legal aid lawyer and card carring member of the ACLU changed into what most would call a hard nosed conservative. This missing part in no way detracts from the book.
An absolute must buy!!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars disturbing and unexpected revelations about American justice, January 22, 1998
By A Customer
Judge Rothwax relates how the antics that let O.J. and Terry Nichols "walk" have bubbled down even to the level of common criminals. They lie, cheat, fabricate details of the story to fit the circumstances, and dance around the courtroom in an absolute mockery of justice. Simple, common-sense ideas such as demanding that the defendant write down a sealed account of the crime BEFORE he gets to mold his story to the cross-examination are not resorted to in America. This book made me so jaded about the hopes of bringing criminals to justice that I think they ought to return to the old techniques: the rack, the thumbscrew, and broiling feet over hot coals.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The bill of rights, April 17, 2013
This review is from: Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice (Paperback)
Is heavily criticized in the as explained by 1 star reviewers before me. Helpful hint for everyone, if a politician plays down the bill of rights as some archaic document that says whatever they say it means, run the other way. And to those of you still hung up about me calling judges politicians, I meant it Jude's are as slimy as any senator in Washington.

I would like to thank those that one starred and cited his atrocious views on the bill of rights, I would have read this cover to cover but thanks to you all I can go ahead and return this piece of junk to the library, it truly is not worth the paper it's printed on.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, October 8, 1999
By 
Andrea Sonn (East Windsor, NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice (Paperback)
Judge Rothwax provides many controversial and honestly expressed opinions about how our legal system is currently operating. His book is outspoken, candid, spare, and understandable. I think we will see more people adopt his ideas as time goes by, but it will take time. A very worthwhile reading experience.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Gripes of Rothwax, September 21, 2006
This review is from: Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice (Paperback)
It is dishonest to claim that criminal justice has collapsed. This one-sided book should not be read by people who do not understand Rothwax's perverse criticisms. He is arguing against the Constitution and the Bill or Rights (p.234), and for features of the European Civil Law system (which derive from royal rule). There is no index in this book so you can't reference the many topics. In Chapter 11 Rothwax suggests "basic changes" to our Common Law system that subverts it. He says the Miranda ruling is unnecessary because of video tape. But isn't that the result of the Miranda decision? Speedy trials are required by the Bill of Rights. No "right to an attorney"? Shame on you, Rothwax! Logically and legally people are innocent until proven guilty; you can't prove innocence. Rothwax would change that to require a defendant to testify (p.237). Allow judges a "more active role" (p.238)? The experience of America has been to restrict judges, and make them elected, not chosen by political bosses. The reversals on "technical" grounds usually means some law was violated in the trial. Any trial which disregards law is not justice, which involves applying the laws. If the justice system is a search for the truth, why does Rothwax object to that? Something is wrong here. Maybe he needs a new career?

Rothwax claims our justice system was "relatively simple" in the past (p.24). F. Lee Bailey can explain about Dr. Sam Sheppard. The right to a speedy trial is to prevent mischief by the clique running the government (p.25). The "reliability of an identification" is to prevent wrongful conviction from unreliable eyewitnesses (p.26). Rothwax complains about suppressing evidence but admits it is impossible to establish clear rules to govern all future cases (p.49). Rothwax explains the Miranda decision as evolving from earlier cases (pp.76-77). Miranda requires objective facts, not opinions (p.82). Rothwax admits it was used against "unlawful police conduct" (p.86). The examples on pages 112-119 suggest political and personality conflicts in the judicial system.

Chapter 6 doesn't tell you that the Canon of Ethics requires a lawyer to use all lawful means to defend a client. This system of advocates developed from Trial by Combat in Medieval times. Plea bargaining greases the wheels of justice and provides more production of guilty defendants at a lower cost to the public. Rothwax doesn't mention the European Civil Law system here (Chapter 7). In Chapter 8 Rothwax argues for reciprocal discovery but admits the Fifth Amendment forbids this (p.179)! Do not be fooled by Rothwax's "Sealed Envelope Proposal" (p.184). It violates the Common Law (innocent until proven guilty). In Chapter 9 Rothwax again attacks the Fifth Amendment to force a defendant to testify (p.189)! Can an innocent person explain something they didn't do (p.191)? Ordinary people can't match a skilled lawyer. Rothwax's disdain for the Bill of Rights suggests philosophical subversion (p.196).

In Chapter 10 Rothwax criticizes the jury system (p.200). His opinion about a "too knowledgeable" juror can be another name for bias (pp.203-204). Or someone likely to be trapped in minor details? Rothwax wants to abolish peremptory challenges (p.205). Will that help a search for truth? Rothwax attacks the requirement of a unanimous jury verdict (p.213)! Wasn't this amount developed over the centuries as an optimal size? The complaint about "annotated" verdict sheets seems wrong-headed (p.217). Printing only "some of the statutory elements of the counts" is misleading to jurors. "Jurors have the power to ignore a judge's instructions and do whatever they please" (p.218)? Rothwax has a strange love of the Civil Law system (p.220) considering he has never lived under it! You should read Marshall Houts' book "King's X and the Common Law System ..." to be better educated than by this tabloid-style story about laws. The photographic angle for the back-cover picture tells something.
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Guilty: The Collapse of  Criminal Justice
Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice by Harold J. Rothwax (Paperback - January 1, 1997)
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