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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 10 September 2012
Clive Stafford Smith has a capacity all too rare among lawyers to make complex, arcane concepts readily eomprehensible to the interested layman.

Part polemic, part true crime story, part call to arms, this book takes the reader on a tour of the American judicial system, with a particular focus on Death Row; Stafford Smith considers the system from a variety of perspectives, from the hapless suspect to the victims' families. While his often righteous anger is never far from the surface, he succeeds in directing it towards fresh and original ideas on improvements which might be made, and issues a call to arms for the main case considered, that of Krishna Maharaj, who remains in prison more than twenty five years after the crime for which he was imprisoned was committed.

Stafford Smith is excellent on the self-referential, inward-looking nature of much of the legal profession, both in the US and in the UK. His critique of the system which leads to judges being selected from a very narrow sector of society and of the effect which this can have on those unfortunate enough to come before them is applicable to both countries. Jury selection is also considered at some length. He unpicks the failings in much legal procedure and questions whether a hidebound system which prevents a factor left out of evidence provided by a defence lawyer in a first trial being produced in the appeal, for example, is the right way of securing justice in cases where a person's life may be at stake.

For all the interest, this book is often strong meat and not the easiest of reads, simply by virtue of the material it is dealing with. It is, however, a very important contribution, from one who knows a good deal more than most of us, to any discussion of the nature of justice.
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