The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law

The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and Law

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by Vanessa Place
     
 

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Vanessa Place examines the ambiguity of rape law by presenting cases where guilt lies, but lies uneasily, and leads into larger ethical questions of what defines guilt, what is justice, and what is considered just punishment. Assuming a society can and must be judged by the way it treats its most despicable members, The Guilt Project looks at the way the American

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Overview

Vanessa Place examines the ambiguity of rape law by presenting cases where guilt lies, but lies uneasily, and leads into larger ethical questions of what defines guilt, what is justice, and what is considered just punishment. Assuming a society can and must be judged by the way it treats its most despicable members, The Guilt Project looks at the way the American legal system defines, prosecutes, and punishes sex offenders, how this Dateline NBC justice has transformed our conception of who is guilty and how they ought to be treated, and how this has come to undo our deeper humanity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A California appellate attorney looks at crime and punishment under our sex laws… Place expands the notion of guilt, examining its other dimensions—factual, ethical, moral—and asks whether we’ve allowed dubious science, conflicting cultural messages and out-of-control political passions to distort our sex laws...Place detects something desperate in all this, and in richly allusive, frequently witty prose, she asks important questions about what it is exactly we want from our criminal laws. A sophisticated, brave look at a topic that too often provokes merely panic, prejudice and posturing.”—Kirkus Reviews

"A brilliant criminal defense attorney, Vanessa Place has produced a deeply personal yet meticulously researched argument that demands serious consideration by policy makers, journalists, social scientists, and informed citizens. For some, her book will inspire a thorough rethinking of how they understand rapists and their places in the criminal justice system. For others, the candid accounts and bold proposals in The Guilt Project will inspire mainly frustration or even anger. But no honest reader can deny the special insights she provides from her years of experience and careful reflection."—Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear and Professor of Sociology, University of Southern California
 
"Judging by The Guilt Project, Vanessa Place is one tough defense attorney, though her wicked prose implies at times the soul of an angry poet. Her thesis that injustice is routinely perpetrated on sex criminals will not be popular—which is why her book should be read by anyone interested in criminology, specifically including legislators, judges, attorneys and prosecutors." —Robert Mayer, author of The Dreams of Ada: A True Story of Murder, Obsession, and a Small Town

Kirkus Reviews
Drawing insight from a career defending "the most loathed of the loathsome," a California appellate attorney looks at crime and punishment under our sex laws. By definition all of the author's sex-offender clients are legally guilty. Once apprised of the particulars of their felonies-to spare the queasy, especially lurid details are confined to appendices-many readers will decline to consider them further. But Place (La Medusa, 2008, etc.) expands the notion of guilt, examining its other dimensions-factual, ethical, moral-and asks whether we've allowed dubious science, conflicting cultural messages and out-of-control political passions to distort our sex laws. How is it, she asks, with the spotlight never brighter on preventing sex crimes, there are seemingly more offenders than ever? "We have pimps," she writes, "because we want whores. Just as, sometimes, we make victims because we want perpetrators." The current crusade for conviction valorizes science-DNA and polygraph testing-in place of the "acts of individual thought and logic" the law requires for judgment about sex crimes. Moreover, there's money to be made in anything related to sex, whether in the privatization of prisons, in the newspaper series covering the latest local outrage, or in the cable-news shows-Place dismantles Dateline: To Catch a Predator-which flirt with entrapment and form uncomfortably close relation with law enforcement. Where the law has traditionally focused on conduct, not character, we enact rules that permit evidence of prior offenses and statutes that increasingly infantilize women and make no allowances for the messy and complicated fact patterns that frequently lead to rape. We make no protest asjudges sanctimoniously impose grossly disproportionate, 1,000-year sentences for sex offenses. And so it goes. In a sex-soaked culture, our law becomes ever more draconian. Place detects something desperate in all this, and in richly allusive, frequently witty prose, she asks important questions about what it is exactly we want from our criminal laws. A sophisticated, brave look at a topic that too often provokes merely panic, prejudice and posturing.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590512647
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
03/23/2010
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.19(d)

Read an Excerpt

I am a criminal defense appellate attorney. I represent indigent sex offenders and sexually violent predators, all on appeal from felony convictions in the State of California. I have also supervised or otherwise assisted a number of other attorneys representing indigent appellate defendants. All told, I’ve been involved in about a thousand felony cases. Most of my clients are factually guilty by virtue of their acts; all are legally guilty by virtue of their convictions. They are the very bad men, those who trigger the question, “How can you defend people like that, knowing that they’re guilty?” It’s an inevitable question, though the delay between meeting me and asking the question varies according to the questioner’s profile. The rich ask it sooner than the poor, the educated quicker than the unschooled. Other criminals usually don’t ask it at all. Fellow cons will be the first to volunteer to crack a baby-raper’s skull, but will never question the scumbag’s right to a defense.

Meet the Author

Vanessa Place is a writer and criminal appellate attorney practicing in Los Angeles. She has worked on the appeals of more than a thousand indigent felons, specializing in sex offenders and sexually violent predators. She is the author of Dies: A Sentence, a fifty-thousand-word, one-sentence prose poem; the post-conceptual novel La Medusa; and, in collaboration with appropriation poet Robert Fitterman, Notes on Conceptualisms. Place is co-founder of Les Figues Press, described by critic Terry Castle as “an elegant vessel for experimental American writing of an extraordinarily assured and ingenious sort.”

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The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality, and Law 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
At that point, I was unable to stomach any more. In that section , he made two and only two points wrth mentioning. The first was that the privatization of the prison system as we arrested people for non-violent drug users ; addiction a disease, not a crime--but companies getting rich off that addiction should be. We have a huge drug problem in MA, and one chief of police, instead of arresting zddicts, has worked to help them Guess what? More people ate seekinghelp, and drug-related crime is much lower. The second point is the way the media (and this means you, NancyGrace) sensationalizes child rape and other rapes. As one pal who is journalist says.if itbleeds, it leads. The rest of this bookis Blaming the Victim. If the law keeps child molestors inahospital for the ret of theirlives, I am fine with that. But then, I have held a twelve-year-old girl who wad raped by a neighbor( who had beencharged once before for a similar crime but never stood trial because hethreatened and harrassed the family into refusing to testify;this 30ish guy was married to a 16-year - old who he married at 15 after he I,pregnsted het). I found the author to be the legal vetsipn of J.R. Ewing,andnot a whole better than the rapists he defends. While I somewhat sgree that tiers need to be degrees of sexual assault, most states already have that. And I disagree that frat rats who think it is just fine to gang rape a girl so drunkthat she asks tem to have at it, ceserve to get off scott free--I would treat as second xegree as opposed to first degree rape. But these guys do needto learn the hard way that if she is so drunk she would gey a DUI, it isn't okay to have sex with her. And we need to make damned sure that you gmalez,the age when most rapes ate committed, that sex without actual consent is not just a crime but wrong onevery level. By the wau on most campuses, the athletes,3%of thecampus, commit 19% of the rapes, and some frats do a much beter job of teaching theirmembets that sex is criminal. This authir is a rape anablet.