THE MUGGING by Morton Hunt


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Certainly the most serious, substantive and decisive book Morton Hunt has done -- this examination of law and disorder in America today undercuts all the attitudes (fear, helplessness, mistrust) and mechanisms which threaten and throttle our juridical system. Hunt's two-way documentary proceeds from the actuality of a mugging to the broader questions it brings up all the way from a wantonly indiscriminate act to the penalty imposed. The crime itself is as ordinary as any mugging (the statistical likelihood in a large city is about one in a hundred); Alexander Helmet, a solitary, white old man who for some quirky reason often carried large amounts of money on his person, was followed up to his apartment by four young Puerto Ricans, knifed, and found nine days later -- ""It's an awful stink in the hall."" Five months later three of the least guilty four were brought to trial, and retrial, and in the alternating insets this examines all the aspects of apprehension (the police -- belittled on all sides -- with their case overload and low clearance record) and method (coercion) on through the frith of the jails, the bottleneck of the courts, the Vanishing defense lawyer (and the importance of the Gideon case) vs. the prosecution (usually competent if mediocre), the judge, the jurors, and the mechanics of the jury trial, followed by the aftermath -- the weakest part of the system which ""passes for corrections."" At the close, briefly to be sure, Hunt suggests certain ways in which our justice system can be reconstructed and revised but before that you will have had a barrage of evidence on both direct and redirect showing how we are unable to handle the practical and increasingly destructive realities of criminal violence. It should find many people on the street where they live.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1972
Publisher: Atheneum