PERVERSIONS OF JUSTICE: The Prosecution and Acquittal of the Panther 21 by Peter L. Zimroth

PERVERSIONS OF JUSTICE: The Prosecution and Acquittal of the Panther 21

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Charged with a conspiracy to bomb police stations and ""ice pigs,"" not to mention blowing up such institutions as Macy's and the Bronx Botanical Gardens, the Panther 21 were tried and acquitted of 156 charges in New York City. Zimroth, a former federal prosecutor, attended the trial and interviewed members of the prosecution, the defense, and the jury, building up to his formal approval of the not-guilty verdict. Some rather incriminatory evidence emerged against a few of the defendants; but the government's blatant hope of breaking the Panthers, coupled with the heavy use of provocateurs, the judge's quite open bias, and D.A. Phillips' uncanny ability to insult the jury's intelligence, made the difference. As one juror put it, the prosecution ""did have a case"" but ""all of this other shit that came into the game, they piled it onto the wagon and pretty soon the fuckin' wagon broke."" Almost as pathetic as the prosecution's Pantherphobia was the gunpacking macho fantasy which some terrified Panthers called politics, and their almost comic inability to carry out any one of their fantasies. Zimroth has a fine sense of the sometimes gross gap between reality and the contending sides' self-images, and this, along with his ability to write clearly about the law, has produced a first-rate study of a classic, but not-so-distant, case -- more pedestrian than Murray Kempton's National Book Award-winning The Brian Patch (1973), but as documentary, perhaps more accessible.

Pub Date: July 26th, 1974
Publisher: Viking