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Guilty: The Collapse Of Criminal Justice Unknown Binding – March 6, 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Random House (March 6, 1996)
  • ASIN: B0041HMRP4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Rizzo on July 28, 2001
Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
This book should be read and discussed in class by every law student, with a view to finding ways to improve our justice system. Not that all of Judge Rothwax's recommendations should be followed, but he certainly provides good starting points for a lively and instructive class discussion that could lead eventually to improvements in our system of justice which could benefit nearly everyone.

Judge Rothwax is, quite reasonably, incensed by the abuses of our legal system by defendants and their lawyers. He has detailed for us several examples of those abuses, and they are indeed horrible examples.

He offers, in the final chapter, ten recommendations, which I will address shortly, but first, attention should be called to the unusual nature of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. It is not at all comparable to the U.S. Supreme Court or to the Supreme Courts of most other states, which are courts of FINAL jurisdiction. The New York State Supreme Court is a court of ORIGINAL jurisdiction, not the highest court but for many cases, the lowest.

Now to the Judge's ten recommendations (pp. 237-238), each followed by my comment(s):

1. The Vast and unknowable search-and-seizure laws, based loosely on the Fourth Amendment, must be simplified and clarified to prevent a guessing game on the street and in the courtroom. As long as the law remains unknowable, there is no justification for the mandatory exclusion rule.

One could hardly object to any needed clarification of the laws, but simplifying them is questionable: a simple rule is very likely to be "one size fits all" that often doesn't fit. And as long as higher courts can reinterpret the law, it will be "unknowable."

2.
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Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: 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.
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