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Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice Hardcover – June 3, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1St Edition edition (June 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031615623X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316156233
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This tragicomic exposé is a roller-coaster ride through the world of justice in the South Bronx. Former trial chief of the Bronx Defenders, Feige takes us through a typically harrowing day as a public defender, dealing with arbitrary judges and clients who are often victims of the judicial system. By a combination of skill and stealth, Feige negotiates the best deal he can get for his clients. In Feige's account, the power of judges—many of whom, he says, are political hacks—triumphs over almost everything else. One judge demanded that all Jews be removed from jury selection because they wouldn't be able to be present on Yom Kippur. To keep up with 75–100 cases at a time. Feige "reinvents" the rules so he can race from one court building to another. We follow the fortunes of dozens of cases, from the ridiculous (Michael, jailed for simply walking a friend's unvaccinated dog) to the tragic ( Jaron, charged with stabbing his cousin). But it's the failure of the system to free the innocent that haunts the author. In this dramatic first book, Feige skillfully shares his wisdom and his humanity and sheds light on a justice system that too often works irrationally. (June 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In an ordinary day in the life of this South Bronx public defender, readers encounter a range of people and circumstances that reflects a comedy of errors, except that the outcomes are hardly amusing and profoundly impact the life--or death--of the defendants. Feige brings an insider's perspective as he dares to humanize criminals and to criminalize law enforcement when it is deserved. With the staggering number of cases, shortage of personnel, and apparent caste and class differences inherent in our criminal justice system, this foray into the public defender's office throws a harsh light on the criminal justice system. With a style that combines black comedy with the drama of a thriller, Feige provokes a debate about the shortcomings of our justice system and the overarching disregard for the underclass that is evident in that system. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Until I left to write the book, I spent nearly my entire career as a public defender. I started out at the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society in New York City (Brooklyn to be exact) and slowly migrated north through the Neighborhood Defenders of Harlem and ultimately to The Bronx Defenders where I served as Trial Chief until 2004.

I still lecture widely and teach annually at the National Criminal Defense College.

Customer Reviews

He seems to believe that almost none of his clients belong in jail.
I highly recommend this gutsy and inspirational book to anybody who wants a fast and shocking read from a great new writer.
Steven R. Donziger
David Feige's work "Indefensible" is a day in the life story of a public defender in the Bronx.
Karl Keys

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By S. Cross on April 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
'Indefensible' is brilliant. Feige is a very talented writer with gripping subject matter. I don't know how to describe the difference between great writing (which is rare) and writing that isn't good (which is everywhere). But I know it when I read it, and this is it. Feige completely transports the reader, you are there with him, and all the senses are engaged. You smell the urine, vomit, and the stench of homelessness. You taste the fried, fatty fast food that is the only eating option in the vicinity of the courthouse. You hear the yelling, the crying, the footsteps on the tile floors. You see the ill-fitting, second-hand suits, the inventive hairstyles of the projects. You feel the touch of the crowds, the cold air outside, the interminable wait for the elevator, the sexual tension with an ADA (in the elevator!).

The book reads better than any legal fiction and obviously, because it is true, has much more emotional impact. I can't count the times (mostly in the first half) that I laughed out loud. Absurdities abound, and he front-loads the book with the funny stuff. It's a good strategy, because once you're lulled in, he really socks it to you. In one simple story of trying to get through the endless line for the metal detectors (just to enter the courthouse), he tells of the court officers confiscating a sandwich from a homeless woman - the only food she has to eat that day. After trashing her sandwich, she begs them to let her go through and not have to re-enter the line and wait another hour, they eject her anyway. She's lost her place in line, most likely lost her all-important court appearance, and she's lost the only food she would eat that day.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am not fond of criminals. Nor can my politics be considered left-wing. However, I do believe in the Constitutional right to due process and David Feige's "Indefensible" shows how Americans are routinely denied this right without a whimper from the elitist liberals and their mainstream press pals. Steve Bogira tried showing the nature of the criminal justice system in his "Courtroom 302" (Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse, but that came out sounding like a left-wing whine blaming everyone except the lawbreaker.

Feige was a public defender in New York for more than 15 years. He tells the story of those years with a touch of humor, an understated admission of the psychic pain he suffered as the system ground down defendants, their families and their lawyers, while elevating and protecting incompetent (if not corrupt) judges, prosecutors and police. His story has the ring of truth. He talks about innocent people railroaded into pleading guilty just to escape the system. Of evil judges who gave no second thought to wrecking families and lives. (He names names.) He doesn't resort to the usual left-wing nostrums of blaming society, demanding more money to perpeptuate dependent welfare or any of that.

By simply stating the facts from his perspective, Feige makes a strong argument for thorough reform of the criminal justice system. Right now the system isn't concerned with justice, but simply keeping itself going. As I said, I have no sympathy for actual criminals and it irritated me a bit to read of Feige negotiating down sentences of robbers and murderers.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. Andress on May 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I pre-ordered this book right before I took the bar exam, but didn't get around to reading it until I visited my parents' house almost a year later. In the meantime I'd passed the bar, been sworn in as a lawyer, and spent nine months as an ADA in the Big City (not the same Big City where Feige practiced, but not much changes in the grimy world of high-volume, high-stress courthouses). I found this book when I came back home for vacation, and just finished reading it last week.

I'm glad I accidentally waited so long before reading it. I think a book like this looks different from the inside than the outside. It has different benefits: rather than giving you a glimpse inside a new world, it makes you look at familiar surroundings from a new perspective. In a career where every professional relationship is adversarial and the other side is often met with suspicion (and often with good reason), it's invaluable to get an honest view of what the other side is thinking. Feige's book is an excellent reminder of the fact that we're still all human in a sometimes inhumane system, and of how it is possible for good and worthy people to stand on both sides of the courtroom. I realize that sounds incredibly basic, but it's so easy to forget in the battlefield. The book provides some reassurance that I'm not failing in my job when I cut defendants breaks, or withdraw charges when justice doesn't line up with the letter of the law. And it reminds me to be decent to the defenders who are decent in turn, because the good ones are horribly overworked and underappreciated in what they do. I'm grateful to be reminded of those things. I needed it.

Of course the book has its flaws; all books do.
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