37. Guilty or Innocent? by Anita Gustafson (1985)
Guilty or innocent…this is the decision that juries all across America grapple with each and every day as an integral part of the American criminal justice system. It is a process whereby twelve ordinary citizens are expected to reach a unanimous verdict based on the facts of the evidence placed before them. It is a time-consuming process – one which should be treated with the utmost seriousness and respect – a verdict reached after much deliberation and weighing of the evidence. However, it is also a verdict that is dead wrong more often than one might expect.
In this book, Anita Gustafson gives the reader a chance to become a member of the jury in ten of the most controversial criminal cases in history. In criminal cases from the early 1600s to 1981, Ms. Gustafson presents the details of each crime and the arguments for both the prosecution and the defense of the accused. Then, after revealing the actual verdict, she goes on to discuss the peculiarities of each case and the possible reasons why the particular verdicts were reached.
Was Lizzie Borden’s trial influenced by the fact that she was a woman? Did Sacco and Vanzetti suffer from prejudice against their foreign backgrounds? Were the Sam Shepard and Lindbergh trials swayed by the media and the effects of an angry mob mentality?
Guilty or Innocent? by Anita Gustafson offers a fascinating combination of intriguing criminal cases, fast-paced reading and insightfully comprehensive analysis that reaches one inescapable conclusion about our legal system: Sometimes the verdict rendered is determined by much more than just the letter of the law.
I found each case to be interesting enough to hold my attention, and despite this being a fairly involved book for me to read; I still enjoyed it immensely. Of the ten cases discussed, I would perhaps consider five or six of them to be modern ‘Crimes of the Century’ – primarily because of the level of celebrity of the victims and/or the accused, the crime itself, and the controversy of the verdict. My opinion is based only on my knowledge of the cases that have become infamous throughout history.
There were perhaps four cases that I knew nothing about when I started reading, although I am sure that each of these cases were considered by many to be ‘Crimes of the Century’ – at least during whichever century a particular crime occurred. As I said, I found that this was an intriguing book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it; although I occasionally found my reading to be somewhat slower than I would have liked. My opinion may only be due to my own leisurely pace while reading and nothing more. Overall, I would give Guilty or Innocent? by Anita Gustafson an A+!
A+! – (96-100%)