I closed my direct examination of narcotics officer Bill Bohnert by asking, "Detective Bohnert, do you see in the courtroom today the man we just saw on the tape, selling the crack cocaine to Darren Bullard?"
Bohnert pointed to Robert Funt.
"He's right there. . . ."
I heard laughter in the courtroom. I glanced at the defendant, who had dutifully raised his hand.
The prisoners seated behind him were laughing. They recognized a Perry Mason moment when they saw one.
Bohnert continued, "He's the one with his hand raised in the air."
It has been said that the public prosecutor has more power over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person—a daunting proposition, but perhaps less intimidating when that official’s perspective is tempered by humor and compassion.
In Scoundrels to the Hoosegow, a veteran prosecutor who is also a consummate storyteller shares more than thirty entertaining legal stories drawn from real life, re-creating, with verve and wit, villains, heroes, and ordinary citizens. In cases both tragic and hilarious, Morley Swingle offers a behind-the-scenes look at the justice system, taking readers from the scene of the crime to the courtroom as he explores the worlds of judges, attorneys, police officers, and criminals.
Informed by a deep appreciation of Mark Twain, Swingle aims to do for his profession what Clemens did for riverboat piloting. He leads readers on an enjoyable romp through crime and punishment, while offering a clear exposition of legal points—from the subtleties of cross-examination to the role of plea bargaining.
In cases ranging from indecent exposure to conspiracy to commit murder, Swingle considers the fine line between pornography and obscenity and discusses sensitive issues surrounding first-degree murder and the death penalty. Whether describing a drunken but well-meaning probationer who frees the dogs on “death row” or the woman who tries to hire a reluctant hit man to dispose of her husband, he combines true crime and legal analysis with a healthy dose of humor—and shares the occasional “Perry Mason moment” in which a trial dramatically shifts direction.
Not since the author of Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver, wrote Small Town D.A. fifty years ago has an American prosecutor penned such a candid, revealing, and funny account of the job—an altogether satisfying book that sentences the reader to many hours of enjoyment.
Sentencing in Time
Linda Ross Meyer Amherst College Press, 2017 Library of Congress KF9685.M49 2017
Exactly how is it we think the ends of justice are accomplished by sentencing someone to a term in prison? How do we relate a quantitative measure of time—months and years—to the objectives of deterring crime, punishing wrongdoers, and accomplishing justice for those touched by a criminal act? Linda Ross Meyer investigates these questions, examining the disconnect between our two basic modes of thinking about time—chronologically (seconds, minutes, hours), or phenomenologically (observing, taking note of, or being aware of the passing of time). In Sentencing in Time, Meyer asks whether—in overlooking the irreconcilability of these two modes of thinking about time—we are failing to accomplish the ends we believe the criminal justice system is designed to serve. Drawing on work in philosophy, legal theory, jurisprudence, and the history of penology, Meyer explores how, rather than condemning prisoners to an experience of time bereft of meaning, we might instead make the experience of incarceration constructively meaningful—and thus better aligned with social objectives of deterring crime, reforming offenders, and restoring justice.
When we consider the concept of sexual abuse and harassment, our minds tend to jump either towards adults caught in unhealthy relationships or criminals who take advantage of children. But the millions of maturing teenagers who also deal with sexual harassment can fall between the cracks.
When it comes to sexual relationships, adolescents pose a particular problem. Few teenagers possess all of the emotional and intellectual tools needed to navigate these threats, including the all too real advances made by supervisors, teachers, and mentors. In Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers, Jennifer Drobac explores the shockingly common problem of maturing adolescents who are harassed and exploited by adults in their lives. Reviewing the neuroscience and psychosocial evidence of adolescent development, she explains why teens are so vulnerable to adult harassers. Even today, in an age of increasing public awareness, criminal and civil law regarding the sexual abuse of minors remains tragically inept and irregular from state to state. Drobac uses six recent cases of teens suffering sexual harassment to illuminate the flaws and contradictions of this system, skillfully showing how our current laws fail to protect youths, and offering an array of imaginative legal reforms that could achieve increased justice for adolescent victims of sexual coercion.
Crime and punishment occur under extreme uncertainty. Offenders, victims, police, judges, and jurors make high-stakes decisions with limited information under severe time pressure. With compelling stories and data on how people act and react, O’Flaherty and Sethi reveal the extent to which we rely on stereotypes as shortcuts in our decision making.
Convicted sexually violent predators are more vilified, more subject to media misrepresentation, and more likely to be denied basic human rights than any other population. Shaming the Constitution authors Michael Perlin and Heather Cucolo question the intentions of sex offender laws, offering new approaches to this most complex (and controversial) area of law and social policy.
The authors assert that sex offender laws and policies are unconstitutional and counter-productive. The legislation largely fails to add to public safety—even ruining lives for what are, in some cases, trivial infractions. Shaming the Constitution draws on law, behavioral sciences, and other disciplines to show that many of the “solutions” to penalizing sexually violent predators are “wrong,” as they create the most repressive and useless laws.
In addition to tracing the history of sex offender laws, the authors address the case of Jesse Timmendequas, whose crime begat “Megan’s Law;” the media’s role in creating a “moral panic;” recidivism statistics and treatments, as well as international human rights laws. Ultimately, they call attention to the flaws in the system so we can find solutions that contribute to public safety in ways that do not mock Constitutional principles.