WE, THE JURY

THE JURY SYSTEM AND THE IDEAL OF DEMOCRACY

An eloquent and persuasive study of how the American jury system has degenerated since colonial times and what can be done to restore it. ``Jurors are forever smarter than assumed by lawyers working from manuals,'' writes Abramson (Politics/Brandeis; The Electronic Commonwealth, 1988), and he should know; he was a prosecutor in a DA's office. When he argues, for example, that juries should be empowered to vote their consciences even if that means nullifying the law as the judge explains it to them, he is writing both as a scholar well versed in jury practice at the time of the Founding Fathers and as someone with firsthand exposure to modern juries—a rare combination in a legal historian. Abramson probes the historic debate between Federalists and Anti-Federalists over whether juries should be predominantly ``local'' (neighbors who know local customs but are not impartial with respect to the defendant) or predominantly ``impartial.'' Over time the impartial jury won out, but he argues that the notion of impartiality has come to mean both ``empty-minded'' (witness, he says, the selection of jurors in the trials of Oliver North and the Menendez brothers) and ``representational,'' a convocation of society's various subgroups voting according to their inevitable biases. Abramson has nothing against impanelling women or ethnic minorities on juries; on the contrary, he favors the inclusion of subgroups to insure ``enriched deliberations across group lines.'' His distaste for ``mere proportional representation for group differences'' may strike the reader as a philosophical quibble, but he suggests concrete ways to restore the jury to the 18th-century ideal: impanel well-informed citizens; instruct the jury that they may nullify unjust laws; end all peremptory challenges of jurors based on minority status; insist on unanimous verdicts (which state verdicts do not currently need to be). However, Abramson is also realistic: He knows that juries are incapable of handing down color-blind death sentences and finds that ``intolerable.'' Brilliant, accessible scholarship that perfectly complements Stephen J. Adler's recent, anecdotal The Jury (p. 893).

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1994

ISBN: 0-465-03698-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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