We Try Harder

In England the police can arrest you on no more than “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed a crime. This includes possessing drugs or carrying an “offensive weapon,” which can cover a multitude of objects. If you are arrested, the police officer in charge of your case may deny your …

How Bad Are the Courts?

A familiar picture of the criminal justice system portrays harried and cynical prosecutors presenting sheaves of cases to lazy, soft-headed judges. Everyone involved has virtually given up trying to contain the rising rate of crime. Defendants are shown either as unregenerate hoodlums who mock the feeble system or as bewildered …

Save the Wales?

Outside Wales the Welsh are so inconspicuous that people don’t even know when they are insulting us. A friend of mine once told me that someone had “welshed” on a promise to him. He was stricken with remorse when I pointed out that this was about the same as my …

Busting the People’s Case

Some years ago I represented several New York nursing home operators who were uneasy about being investigated by the special prosecutor. Bernard Bergman was notorious at the time, relentlessly depicted in the press as having coldly tortured helpless old people for money. I remember that one of my clients (a …

Who Should Go to Prison?

We would all like violent criminals to go away and there are several ways to make them disappear. Capital punishment works best but nobody has yet had the fortitude to urge it publicly on so grand a scale, though such a wish is surely often harbored. For a long time …

Are Justices Just?

Enchanted by their own work, judges, like poets, are sometimes tempted to turn back to switch on the lights in the tunnel of creation. To their annoyance they find the place already occupied by a crew of professors busily painting the walls and putting up signposts. What are these people …

A Mixed Bane

Even when “pain and anguish wring the brow” lawyers are rarely perceived as “ministering angels.” They are more likely to be seen as vultures. Polemics portray them as the bosom lackeys of capitalism, toiling night and day to smooth the paths of the rich while turning off the word-processor for …

Should Alfie Be Let Off?

Ever since imprisonment was enthusiastically accepted in the nineteenth century as a humanitarian alternative to the hanging rope and the whipping post we have been uncertain about just what it is supposed to do. The Quaker vision of moral regeneration through harsh solitude soon faded, but confinement has until recently …

The Plight of the Victim

The charge that we coddle criminals and neglect victims is often heard as a cry from the hysterical right but it embodies a substantial, if distorted, truth. Criminals do get a lot more attention than their victims for many reasons. First, victims frighten us. Like someone struck by cancer or …

License to Kill

The last execution in the United States was in Utah in January 1977, when Gary Gilmore played his part in the death pageant contrived to bring about his suicide. Before Gilmore there had been no execution since 1967, when Luis J. Monge was put to death in Colorado. But these …

How to Define the Crime

George Fletcher has written a very important book which may receive less attention than it deserves. Most people are interested in crime and criminal trials but not in the criminal law. Exactly how someone was disemboweled yesterday is morbidly fascinating; that I may be mugged tomorrow is chilling. But the …

American Terror

Violent crime is always with us, but today more obtrusively and frighteningly than in earlier remembered times. Or at least so it seems. But where can we look to verify this? Reconstructing the crime and fear of the past is a delicate task. Until the late nineteenth century we have …