JUSTICE OVERRULED by Burton S. Katz

JUSTICE OVERRULED

Unmasking the Criminal Justice System
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A judge-turned-pundit proposes to fix America's ``broken'' criminal justice system. In his previous incarnations as prosecutor, defense attorney, and L.A. Municipal and Superior Court judge, TV and radio commentator Katz waded ``waist-deep in the muck'' of a criminal justice system that, he says, encouraged cops to lie, attorneys to deceive, juries to snooze, and judges to abdicate control over their courtrooms. Here Katz assaults the system from all sides, beginning with the ``byzantine'' judge-made rules for excluding relevant but wrongly seized evidence in criminal cases. According to Katz, the exclusionary rule forces good cops to ``testi-ly'' to retroactively conform their behavior to ``demeaning'' procedures. (In his controversial view, ``cops may lie about how they got the evidence . . . [but] they rarely lie about the defendant's guilt.'') Katz also favors scrapping Miranda warnings; instead, all statements given to police should be videotaped, then subjected to judicial hearings. If rolling back such key Warren Court reforms seems unlikely, Katz offers numerous other suggestions embraced by more centrist court watchers: limiting peremptory challenges of potential jurors; firing all jury consultants; dispensing with the requirement that verdicts be unanimous, except in the penalty phase of capital cases; sanctioning ``intemperate'' attorneys with jail sentences, fines, and even disbarment; and limiting ``abuse-excuse'' testimony to probation and sentencing hearings. Katz's incisive, specific, tough-but-fair analysis is marred only by a racially insensitive anecdote and a general tendency toward self-aggrandizement (quoting transcripts of his own court performances and laudatory letters) and self-justification (repeatedly explaining his controversial rulings as judge in the trial of stalked-and-murdered actress Dominique Dunne). The writing is punchy, but sometimes sounds as if it had been dictated rather than written by the author (``How many more were out there just like her? Black, brown, yellow, white? Color didn't matter. Only the children; they matter.''). Despite its flaws, a standout in the growing genre of judge tell-alls. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 11th, 1997
ISBN: 0-446-52042-X
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997




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