Three Essays in Criminal Justice

50 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2015 Last revised: 13 Oct 2015

See all articles by Bernard E. Harcourt

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University; Columbia University

Date Written: September 28, 2015


How could the New York Times call the grand jury’s decision to no bill the indictment against officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a “verdict”? How could federal appellate judges call it a “procedural shortcut” when a state judge, in a death penalty case, signs the state attorney general’s proposed judicial opinion without even striking the word “proposed” or reviewing the full opinion? What do these incidents tell us about contemporary criminal justice? These essays explore these puzzles. The first, “Verdict and Illusion,” begins to sketch the role of illusions in justice. The second, “A Singe Voice of Justice,” interprets these procedural shortcuts through the lens of Homeric, agonistic combat. The third, “Reading Penal Theories and Institutions,” offers a first reading of the newly published Foucault lectures on punishment practices, theories and institutions, delivered at the Collège de France in 1971-1972. (A French version of the latter essay is included as well).

Keywords: Ferguson, Missouri, capital punishment, grand jury, verdict, Michel Foucault, Foucault

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, Bernard E., Three Essays in Criminal Justice (September 28, 2015). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-480, Available at SSRN:

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

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