by David S. Rudolf ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 25, 2022
A stellar—and often shocking—report on a broken criminal justice system.
A prominent defense and civil rights lawyer indicts the criminal justice system as he recalls his work with clients such as Michael Peterson, the novelist who inspired the Netflix series The Staircase.
Rudolf once helped to negotiate a $9 million civil settlement for a man who had been held without a trial for 14 years on the basis of a “confession” so articulate it might have come from an English professor although the prisoner had an IQ of less than 60. That story is far from the most startling in this potent critique of systemic errors and misconduct by police and prosecutors that have led to wrongful convictions nationwide, many in North Carolina, where the author practices law and racial biases have long plagued the justice system. With keen moral force backed by clear and persuasive examples from his work or that of groups such as the Innocence Project, Rudolf shows how mental, physical, or legal influences can subvert justice. Police corruption is only one. Psychological factors like confirmation bias can cause police to trust their “intuition” about a suspect in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Misunderstandings about the limits of forensic science can result in overvaluing fingerprint or other “pattern-based” evidence. Even well-meaning efforts like Crime Stoppers hotlines can taint trials by tempting people to lie for rewards. An overarching problem is that jury trials in federal criminal cases are “essentially extinct,” with 97% of cases resolved by plea. Consequently, a defense lawyer’s job is “primarily to explain to the defendant the incredible cost of being convicted after a trial and the great benefit of pleading guilty as soon as possible”—even if they are innocent. For readers seeking to top up their outrage about abuses in criminal justice, this book makes a fine companion to Bryan Stephenson’s Just Mercy and Emily Bazelon’s Charged.A stellar—and often shocking—report on a broken criminal justice system.
Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Custom House/Morrow
Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021
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by Thomas Sowell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 19, 2023
For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
The noted conservative economist delivers arguments both fiscal and political against social justice initiatives such as welfare and a federal minimum wage.
A Black scholar who has lived through many civil rights struggles, Sowell is also a follower of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that free market solutions are available for every social problem. This short book begins with what amounts to an impatient declaration that life isn’t fair. Some nations are wealthy because of geographical advantages, and some people are wealthy because they’re smarter than others. “Some social justice advocates may implicitly assume that various groups have similar developed capabilities, so that different outcomes appear puzzling,” he writes. In doing so, he argues, they fail to distinguish between equal opportunity and equal capability. Sowell is dismissive of claims that Black Americans and other minorities are systematically denied a level playing field: Put non-white kids in charter schools, he urges, and presto, their math scores will zoom northward as compared to those in public schools. “These are huge disparities within the same groups, so that neither race nor racism can account for these huge differences,” he writes, clearly at pains to distance himself from the faintest suggestion that race has anything to do with success or failure in America. At the same time, he isn’t exactly comfortable with the idea that economic inequalities exist, and he tries to finesse definitions to suit his convictions: “The terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are misleading in another and more fundamental sense. These terms apply to people’s stock of wealth, not their flows of income.” As for crime? Give criminals more rights, he asserts, as with Miranda v. Arizona, and crime rates go up—an assertion that overlooks numerous other variables but fits Sowell’s ideological slant.For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Basic Books
Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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