Law Without Justice: Why Criminal Law Doesn't Give People What They Deserve
Paul H. Robinson
University of Pennsylvania Law School
Michael T. Cahill
Rutgers Law School
Paul H. Robinson and Michael T. Cahill, LAW WITHOUT JUSTICE: WHY CRIMINAL LAW DOESN'T GIVE PEOPLE WHAT THEY DESERVE, Oxford University Press, 2005
If an innocent person is sent to prison or if a killer walks free, we are outraged. The legal system assures us, and we expect and demand, that it will seek to do justice in criminal cases. So why, for some cases, does the criminal law deliberately and routinely sacrifice justice? Why would criminal law rules be designed to give people punishment other than what they deserve?
In this unflinching look at American criminal law, Paul Robinson and Michael Cahill demonstrate that cases with unjust outcomes are not always irregular or unpredictable. Rather, the criminal law sometimes chooses not to give defendants what they deserve: that is, unsatisfying results occur even when the system works as it is designed to work. Sometimes the law punishes more than is warranted, as in the case of Leandro Andrade, who stole $154 worth of videotapes and yet under California's three strikes law will spend at least fifty years in prison. Other times a legal rule punishes less than is merited, as with Sammy the Bull Gravano, a ruthless mob killer granted immunity for numerous murders in return for informing on his fellow Mafiosi.
Law without Justice comprehensively surveys the undeserved outcomes that occur because of law, rather than in spite of it. From statutes of limitations and double-jeopardy rules that disallow newly found evidence conclusively proving an offender's guilt, to harsh doctrines that ignore legitimate claims of blamelessness, the authors find that while some justice-sacrificing doctrines serve their intended purpose, many others do not, or could be replaced by other, better rules that would serve the purpose without abandoning a just result.
With a panoramic view of the overlapping and often competing goals that our legal institutions must balance on a daily basis, this book challenges us to restore justice to the criminal justice system.
Keywords: Criminal law, justice
JEL Classification: K14
Date posted: April 20, 2005