THE BEST DEFENSE by Alan M. Dershowitz
Kirkus Star

THE BEST DEFENSE

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Unscholarly war stories from the files of a Harvard law professor and sometime criminal defense lawyer--who argues that America's justice system is ""corrupt to its core."" Outspoken both inside and outside the courtroom, Dershowitz flings barbs at everyone in sight: judges--many ""lack the basic intelligence to understand a moderately complex legal argument""; defense attorneys--""too many . . . are simply lazy""; even the highly-regarded prosecutors of the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York--""they are prepared to close their eyes to perjury; to distort the truth; and to engage in cover-ups."" Most of the cases Dershowitz recounts here involve attempts to put the government on trial for its misconduct--""the best defense"" being a good offense, especially when your client is guilty. Is a policeman's promise that an informer won't be called as a witness legally enforceable? When a prosecutor agrees, as part of a plea-bargain, to ""recommend"" a specific sentence, may he recommend it so tepidly that his private views shine through? Should prosecutors' acquiescence in star witnesses' perjury go unremedied? Dershowitz has faced these sorts of issues, over the past decade, in situations ranging from a Jewish Defense League bombing, to the sentencing of nursing-home czar Bernard Bergman, to the bribery conviction of attorney Edmund Rosner based on testimony from New York policeman Robert (The Prince of the City) Leuci. Few full-time criminal lawyers would be as unembarrassed as Dershowitz in discussing cases lost (Bergman, Rosner, the Frank Snepp-CIA civil litigation, the Tison death penalty case in Arizona); and while to some lawyers and judges these post-mortems may suggest sour grapes--trying to win in print, if not before the bench--in certain instances (the Rosner case, especially), Dershowitz's outrage seems well founded. To remind readers that important constitutional issues sometimes arise in scenarios other than life-and-death, Dershowitz includes entertaining accounts of his representation of actor Harry Reems (star of Deep Throat) and nude bathers on Cape Cod. Verdict: mostly for lawyers and civil-liberties types, but entertaining enough for courtroom-buffs at large.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1982
ISBN: 039471380X
Publisher: Random House