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Murder and the Reasonable Man: Passion and Fear in the Criminal Courtroom Paperback – October 1, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0814751169 ISBN-10: 0814751164

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Product Details

  • Series: Critical America (New York University Paperback)
  • Paperback: 371 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814751164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814751169
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,017,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Lee's book is a compelling and well-informed analysis of the issues raised when courts confront questions of reasonableness in high-profile, headline-grabbing cases.”
-Choice

,

“For Cynthia Lee, legal analysis is not a scholastic exercise in logical deduction or philosophical puzzle-solving, but a vivid form of social criticism. In relentlessly exposing the law's foundation in partisan social norms, she challenges the prevailing modes of legal scholarship as well as the prevailing understandings of voluntary manslaughter and self-defense doctrine. Murder and the Reasonable Man establishes Lee as one of the pre-eminent commentators on American criminal law.”
-Dan Kahan,Professor of Law, Yale Law School



“Lee challenges readers to question the concept of 'reasonableness' and how it has been applied. . . Scholars, students, professionals and the educated public will appreciate the careful, well-documented argument and pertinent examples.”
-Library Journal

,

“Smart, insightful, and important, this book proves that the criminal justice system does not treat all persons equally—that the reasonable man is a man, and that men get away with murder, while women pay with their lives. Must reading for students of the law, gender studies, and all those who care about equal justice.”
-Susan Estrich,Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Southern California, and author of Real Rape, Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System



“Provocative and persuasive. In this well-written and meticulously documented book, Cynthia Lee demonstrates how the law has defined ‘reasonableness’ in criminal law to favor men against women, straight men against gay men, and whites against blacks. Lee’s synthesis of many seemingly different examples, with thoughtful responses to the various objections that might be raised, is legal scholarship that can make a difference in our social practices. This is a serious and compelling book that should lead to reform.”
-Frank H. Wu,author of Yellow: Race in America beyond Black and White

About the Author

Cynthia Lee is Professor of Law at George Washington University School of Law, where she teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Professional Responsibility.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mike on July 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I don't know if Lee understands the legal standards involving "reasonableness" and the use of force. She continual refers to "reasonable belief of death or great bodily injury" as if it is so amorphous that it cannot and in cases where racial stereotypes are involved is not reasonably applied. There are a number of factors that a jury is instructed to use when evaluating a use of deadly force incident that are 100% objective in determining the legality or illegality of it. Factors such as age differences between the two parties, prior knowledge of violent behavior on behalf of the assailant, physical size differences, if the defender was outnumbered, are both parties armed (and it doesn't have to be with a conventional weapon), are some of the considerations used to determine if there was a "reasonable belief of death or great bodily injury". Its not as fuzzy or gray as Lee is arguing as most states have these requirements on use of force either in the criminal law code or in some common law precedent; its almost as if this book is 40 years out of date.

If anything, this book makes a good case for the restriction of non-defined or "novel" affirmative defenses like "gay rage" and the Twinkie defense.

I was also bothered by Lee's interpretation of the Goetz case. She seems to believe that Goetz's defense, while not specifically bringing in the race question, was none the less guilt of racial stereotyping by describing the assailants as "vultures" and "animals". And although Lee castigates Goetz's defense for this (arguably accurate) depiction, she continually refers to the assailants as the "boys"; an equally loaded word itself designed to invoke sympathy in the reader. She fails to mention that these "boys" were all 18 and 19 years old.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Student on November 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book for law students interested in criminal law, either prosecution or defense side, and for students of the social sciences. Lee discusses how criminal defendants use provocation and self-defense arguments in the courtroom and how the defendants who rely on stereotypes regarding gender, race, and sexual orientation are often found to be reasonable in their violent acts. The book contains in-depth discussions of cases that illustrate Lee's thesis, making it easy to read for readers, including myself, who are not lawyers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dee McCrorey, Author, Innovation in a Reinvented World on August 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This well-crafted book is the thinking person's guide to understanding the "reasonable man" defense. Cynthia Lee has written a meticulously researched book both important for its insight into the spirit of the law, as it is applies to the reasonable man defense, as for her storytelling in providing us a glimpse of the people behind the legal cases she presents.
The author builds an excellent case for revising the narrow social norms used by our legal system today when applying the reasonable man defense to less visible segments of our society: minorities, such as heterosexual women, gays and lesbians, and persons of color. She goes beyond pointing out what needs to be changed within our legal system by offering her own recommended solutions for leveling the playing field.
Highly recommended for non-legal types who have a passion for equal rights under the law.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an extremely significant and thoughtful legal work challenging our notions of what should constitute "provocation" or "self-defense" in murder cases. Professor Lee illustrates how the defenses of "provocation" and "self-defense" have been successfully used to justify homocides motivated by racism, homophobia, and gender bias. Any criminal law judge or prosecutor who fails to read this book will be at a disadvantage in the courtroom. Every law student and every civil rights organization should read it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lisa J. Steele on October 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Lee's thesis that the "reasonable man" standard is biased against women, GLBT persons, and members of racial and ethnic minorities is provocative and well supported with history and case law. Her suggestions for race-switching jury instructions raise questions about the reader's own biases and assumptions.
The problem comes in Lee's understanding of use-of-force issues especially issues relating to reaction times (which can result in shots to the side or back), stress hormones and memory (which can result in fragmented memory), stress hormones and fine muscle control (which makes it hard to practically shoot to wound), and the ability of handgun fire to penetrate standard building materials (which makes warning shots dangerous). Lee's book should be read in combination with practical self-defense and use-of-force articles by respected writers like Masaad Ayoob and Phil Messina.
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