Trials Without Truth: Why Our System of Criminal Trials Has Become an Expensive Failure and What We Need to Do to Rebuild It

William Pizzi, Editor New York University Press $70 (257p) ISBN 978-0-8147-6649-1
Pizzi believes that the American system of criminal trials is badly in need of repair. The main problem, in his eyes, is that the system is too preoccupied with judicial procedure and too little concerned with the truth. In a cogent, direct argument, Pizzi inveighs against the triumph of the law of unintended consequences over the law of practicality. He carefully articulates the sad state of the criminal trial system, laying blame primarily on Supreme Court decisions relating to criminal procedure. Pizzi argues persuasively that a criminal trial system in which defendants avoid trials at all costs is inherently flawed. Comparing the American system to those of other countries, he shows how our preoccupation with formal rights and procedural regularity blinds us to glaring substantive failures, such as defendants' lack of access to adequate representation and the fact that there is a strong institutional preference for guilty pleas even in cases in which defendants are innocent. He suggests that fact-finders be appointed to determine a defendant's guilt. In this sense, Pizzi echoes his University of Colorado colleague Paul Campos (Jurismania). Pizzi's background as a former federal prosecutor may lead him to downplay the severity of police abuses in this country, yet his argument's ultimate grounding in perspectives gleaned from his research in comparative criminal law makes his book an important work. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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Paperback - 257 pages - 978-0-8147-6650-7
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