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Cracking the System
on 1 May 2014
Sergio de la Pava's painfully detailed study of the law in action amongst the underclass in New York is an insightful examination of court procedure and the conscience of the poor. Social and moral questions thread their way through the protracted dialogues between attorneys and clients. How can you defend a man who is a liar, a betrayer and a recidivist criminal? How and why? Well, Cassi, the more or less narrator believes it's his duty to do the best for his clients, selected mainly from the scum of society. He works frighteningly long hours with unpromising material for a derisory reward. He does his best in a hopeless situation, for drug enforcement laws are sacred in NYC. Society must be protected and criminal locked up for as long as possible.
As a novel this book is something of a disaster. Interminable speeches are interspersed with almost equally interminable dialogues, between client and attorney, between the attorneys themselves. Light relief, if that's what it is, is offered by immaculate transcripts of judicial procedure. There is all the material for a fine novel here, a cri de coeur for something more sensible and humane in the justice system, but the pain of digging it out is as hard as Cassi's self-imposed daily torture.