Protecting the Innocent as the Primary Value of the Criminal Justice System (Reviewing George Thomas, 'The Supreme Court on Trial: How the American Justice System Sacrifices Innocent Defendants.')
26 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2009 Last revised: 17 Mar 2017
Date Written: July 7, 2009
This is a review of George Thomas’s important and provocative new book, THE SUPREME COURT ON TRIAL: HOW THE AMERICAN JUSTICE SYSTEM SACRIFICES INNOCENT DEFENDANTS. Thomas argues that protection of the innocent is the primary goal of the criminal justice system, and that the adversary system has proved poorly suited to advancing that goal. In addition, he argues that Warren Court reforms exacerbated the problem, creating a system in which procedural protections have become an end rather than a means toward achieving justice. He argues that our system would do well to adopt many aspects of the inquisitorial system, and particularly the French system. The review gives an overview of the book, and then explores two of its central arguments. First, to what extent are the root causes of wrongful convictions tied to the adversary system, or to the current U.S. version of the adversary system, and to what extent do they transcend national culture? Second, is Thomas correct that protecting the innocent is the primary goal of the criminal justice system, and that the focus on process conflicts with that goal?
Keywords: comparative law, wrongful convictions, adversary system, actual innocence, criminal procedure
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