WITH JUSTICE FOR SOME by George P. Fletcher


Defending Victims in Criminal Trials
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 This sharp, sensible, ``angry'' book explores how four classes of disempowered Americans look to the criminal justice system to vindicate past grievances, and how the courts too often betray them. Using recent front-page criminal cases, Fletcher (Law/Columbia Univ.; Loyalty, 1992, etc.) shows how when crime victims are gays, blacks, Jews, or women, the defense counsel can exploit the prejudices of judge and jury. Fletcher explains how the preposterous ``Twinkie defense''--the argument that Dan White murdered San Francisco's gay supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone as a result of binging on junk food--gave jurors the opportunity to avoid convicting White of murdering someone whose lifestyle they found repugnant. Similarly, the first trial in the Rodney King beating was derailed by the defense's ability to change the venue of the trial to white suburban Simi Valley, and by the prosecution's decision to forbid King to testify--he remained a symbol to the jury of drug-crazed black rage. Fletcher draws an intriguing parallel between that trial and those for the murders of Jewish nationalist Meir Kahane and scholar Yankel Rosenbaum, which were tainted by the defense's ability to stir up the anti-Semitism of minority jurors. Then, in a surprising about-face, he argues that the ability of women to exploit their status as victims has led to some erroneous convictions, most notably that of Mike Tyson, who may have been ``honestly and reasonably mistaken'' as to Desiree Washington's consent. Fletcher also argues that when minorities rallly behind crime victims from their group, they fuel the defense's ability to exploit jurors' prejudices, but this part of his argument never quite gels. The author has concrete suggestions for making our criminal justice system more just for victims and defendants: e.g., abolish changes of venue, permit the victim to question witnesses and veto plea bargains, limit the testimony of ``experts.'' His style is robust, straightforward, and notably jargon-free. For its sensitivity to the rights of victims and defendants alike, a remarkable work.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-201-62254-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994


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