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The Abuse Excuse: And Other Cop-Outs, Sob Stories, and Evasions of Responsibility Hardcover – October 1, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0316181358 ISBN-10: 0316181358 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); 1 edition (October 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316181358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316181358
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,699,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

More and more criminal defendants are claiming a history of abuse to avoid accountability for their behavior. Harvard Law School professor Dershowitz (Chutzpah) views battered wife syndrome, "black rage," the "crime of passion" mitigation, sexual abuse syndrome and other defenses as "abuse excuses." In his blistering critique, Dershowitz sees such ploys and jurors' sympathetic responses to them as an abdication of individual and societal responsibility. Despite the author's attempt to link these 68 articles and essays under the broad theme of denial of accountability, this is a miscellany of his feisty views on such defendants as Michael Jackson, Erik and Lyle Menendez, John Demjanjuk, Woody Allen and William Kennedy Smith, as well as Serbian genocide, U.S. feminists' anti-pornography campaigns and Germany's lax prosecution of Nazi war criminals. Dershowitz, a consultant to the O.J. Simpson defense team, intimates that Simpson might have to use some variation of the abuse excuse-a glaring irony that blunts his book's impact.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

What do "abused child," "black rage," "posttraumatic stress," and "Super Bowl Sunday" have in common? They are all reasons given by Americans seeking to avoid responsibility for alleged violent crimes. They are also the subject matter of an interesting series of essays by Dershowitz, professor at Harvard Law School and one of the most prominent of today's commentators on criminal law. The essays are brief (most only a few pages long), and each describes an actual case in which the excuse was raised as a defense. Dershowitz poses a truly interesting question: why do Americans remain sympathetic to the excuses offered by criminal defendants while at the same time demanding tougher criminal laws and punishment? He believes that we are genuinely concerned with victims and that this concern remains apparent even if the victim is also a criminal offender. For popular law collections.
Jerry E. Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ is a Brooklyn native who has been called 'the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer' and one of its 'most distinguished defenders of individual rights,' 'the best-known criminal lawyer in the world,' 'the top lawyer of last resort,' and 'America's most public Jewish defender.' He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Dershowitz, a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25 after clerking for Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg. While he is known for defending clients such as Anatoly Sharansky, Claus von B'low, O.J. Simpson, Michael Milken and Mike Tyson, he continues to represent numerous indigent defendants and takes half of his cases pro bono. Dershowitz is the author of 20 works of fiction and non-fiction, including 6 bestsellers. His writing has been praised by Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, David Mamet, William Styron, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Elie Wiesel. More than a million of his books have been sold worldwide, in numerous languages, and more than a million people have heard him lecture around the world. His most recent nonfiction titles are The Case For Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved (August 2005, Wiley); Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights (November 2004, Basic Books), The Case for Israel (September 2003, Wiley), America Declares Independence, Why Terrorism Works, Shouting Fire, Letters to a Young Lawyer, Supreme Injustice, and The Genesis of Justice. His novels include The Advocate's Devil and Just Revenge. Dershowitz is also the author of The Vanishing American Jew, The Abuse Excuse, Reasonable Doubts, Chutzpah (a #1 bestseller), Reversal of Fortune (which was made into an Academy Award-winning film), Sexual McCarthyism and The Best Defense.

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Risse on June 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Interesting book, but at length it sounds more like one of the sob stories it purports to outline. It should be made clear that the book is not a book in a traditional sense, in that the thesis is delineated at the introduction but the bulk of the text is composed of short essays. Additionally, it's not entirely clear who the main audience is intended to be.
While Mr. Dershowitz certainly covers his topic well, less than halfway through the book his argument becomes repetitive and muddled. The controversy he rails against in one section could be used to support reasoning in another.
The author does not go into depth to explain why lawyers or justices take, or do not take, the positions they do. In this sense it is little more than a critique of society and the system. We in the public have been lead to believe that the justice system is adversarial. If so, then it is the responsibility of a good attorney to provide a zealous prosecution of his case - be it prosecution or defense - not necessarily to offer a responsible or truthful conclusion. Mr. Dershowitz does not address this issue. Thus, ultimately there is very little substance to his material.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gordon on November 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
For a man as educated and intelligent as Mr. Dershowitz, this was a surprisingly uninteresting and dull account of a very important issue. While I agree with Dershowitz's main tent -- our society has become less responsible in many ways, and that our law is a reflection of that -- his essays were, to put it mildly, insipid and boring. I realize that the mediums that he choose to broadcast his message -- newspapers -- constrain his ability to express his sentiments in all the proper nuance. (For instance, George Will, a respected columnist, writes for general audiences but never hesitates to express his comments in the language such comments deserve).
Also, after you have read one single essay from Mr. Dershowitz, there is absolutely no reason to read another one. Each essay talks about the same subject in almost the same fashion: that the abrogation of responsibility will ultimately result in the end of the rule of law (which requires that we be responsible for our actions) and democracy (which posits that elected officials are ultimately responsible for their actions). I would encourage careful readers to instead look at James Q. Wilson's "Moral Judgment: Does the Abuse Excuse Threaten our Legal System." Wilson's book goes into far more depth on this issue, offering theoretical and practical support for his arguments. Plus, Wilson is far more interesting. : )
Michael Gordon
Los Angeles
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By Bella Leigh on January 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
Every single person who gets arrested or busted for a crime immediately uses the "abuse-excuse" it had to be their childhood or some other abuse situation. We have come to believe that every person has been abused, they must have been? or why would they rob a bank? steal? kill? become addicted to drugs or alcohol? Even if true, they were abused, what gives them the right to steal? to kill? to drive while drunk?

Bad things happen to good people every day, does that give them the excuse to break the law? to hurt others? to live a criminal life?

This book tells it like it is, we have become a society where we blame others for our own actions. We are responsible for what we do. good or bad, I guess we could all blame someone else, use the "abuse-excuse" but then what? We are a victim, so nothing after that is our responsibility?
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By L. J. Silva on April 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The book offers a very interesting analysis on how abuse affects American socity and law; curiously, many people get use to be abused on a daily basis and never learned the tools to avoid it in every day life.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Without doubt, Alan Dershowitz is a brilliant attorney and proves his thesis superbly. Although it is politically correct to attack lawyers...I for one think Mr. Dershowitz and Gerry Spence are Supreme Court material. Read this book and learn the art of critical thinking.
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