ESCAPE OF THE GUILTY by Ralph Adam Fine

ESCAPE OF THE GUILTY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A broad attack on our criminal justice system by a jurist who believes the system is a failure. Fine says too many criminal defendants have learned how to beat the rap and do so with impunity. A trial judge in Wisconsin's Milwaukee County, Fine's targets are plea bargaining to avoid trial, the Miranda rule, the insanity defense, and the entire juvenile justice system. He groups these under the rubric ""the law's fictions, expediencies and myopic rigidities."" His thesis is that as they are manipulated by cagy defendants, smart defense lawyers and weary, overworked prosecutors, these liberalizations of criminal law work almost exlusively for the benefit of the criminals and against society's interests. A judicial conservative, Fine's solution for the deficiencies he names is swifter--and sterner--punishment. He would end plea bargaining entirely, modify the Miranda rule to make things easier for the police, and narrow the insanity defense. Also, he would revise the juvenile justice system to make it tougher on defendants: ""Purposeful punishment--feedback from bad behavior--is essential to the civilizing of our children."" In Wisconsin, trial judges are elected. Fine never has been a prosecutor or a defense lawyer. He writes: ""unlike most of my federal and state colleagues, my roots are exclusively on the civil side of the law."" He attacks the Milwaukee District Attorney's office as a lawyer's ""clique"" and boasts that he was elected ""without the active support of any lawyer group, much less the criminal bar."" Fine, however, has been a reporter for a Milwaukee TV station. His approach to the law, his writing style and his choice of cases to illustrate his thesis are more typical of a journalist than a jurist. Thus, in most instances, he attempts to evoke an emotional reaction to the law's inadequacies rather than to offer a reasoned assessment of the problems and possible solutions.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Dodd, Mead