A labored retelling of the controversial murder prosecution of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
After the innumerable articles, books, Web sites, television programs, and now even a Hollywood film devoted to Carter’s legal woes, a potential reader could justifiably wonder what this new offering brings to the table. The answer: not much. Wice (Political Science/Drew Univ.) promises to use the case to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of our nation’s criminal-justice system. He then proceeds to recount the tortuous path of Carter’s prosecution in the most unimaginative manner possible. First, he structures the book chronologically rather than thematically, which impedes narrative flow without heightening suspense. Everyone knows the outcome to begin with, and, as anyone who has been called to jury duty realizes, trials typically provide five minutes of entertainment in five days of tedium. Second, Wice accepts too much offered by Carter and his defenders at face value, a dangerous proposition in the murky world of criminal prosecutions. For instance, he uncritically recounts Carter’s recollection of an early criminal escapade: Carter and his friends stabbed a drunk young man because he “groped” them. Where is the proof of this? Perhaps it happened that way, but Wice presents the recollection as undisputed fact. Third, the book never delivers on its initial promise to tie Carter’s unfortunate case to the institutional problems that beset the American justice system. Rather, it contents itself with a lackluster rehashing of the various legal proceedings and then concludes with an unconvincing chapter full of platitudes about the weaknesses of an adversarial system.
Anyone interested in exploring the compelling case of Hurricane Carter would be well-advised to start elsewhere.