The Tilted Playing Field: Is Criminal Justice Unfair?

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Although evenly matched adversaries make for a more exciting athletic contest, and a level playing field is essential to a fair game, is the same true in a criminal trial? In this book, H. Richard Uviller argues that a criminal trial is not analogous to a sporting event. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are, in critical respects, different from each other, and the allocation of advantages to each must be uneven in order to be fair.. "In a lively exploration of the powers of the prosecutor and the prerogatives of the defense, Uviller asks where our criminal justice system is fair though unequal and where its inequalities may subvert fair results. Uviller concludes that although the overall criminal justice system reflects a fair distribution of advantages and disadvantages, in certain areas the imbalance is so severe as to undermine justice. He offers realistic, carefully considered recommendations for reform in these problem areas.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Uviller (law, Columbia; Virtual Justice, Yale Univ., 1996) ambitiously and studiously examines the criminal law concept of "fundamental fairness." He posits that such fairness may be achieved by tipping the scales in favor of a particular party during the course of a criminal trial. Accordingly, "fundamental fairness" does not necessarily mean that both parties should be treated alike. Uviller grounds his hypothesis in thorough examinations of trial procedure, including prosecutorial discretion, access to evidence, burdens and presumptions, appellate procedure, and jury constraints. His analysis, based on a 45-year career in law, is abstract and highly theoretical; it does not rest on case studies or detailed research. This approach allows Uviller the comfort of drawing academic distinctions far from the fray of daily practice. Not surprisingly, his conclusions are moderate, limited to some tinkering around the procedural edges of the judicial system. A heady, philosophical work most easily approached by legal scholars. Academic law libraries should consider it.--Steven Anderson, Gordon Feinblatt Rothman Hoffberger & Hollander, Baltimore
Mary W. Atwell
The last two chapters are devoted to a restatement of Uviller's recommendations and his conclusion that the system as it stands is "tolerably fair." I think these chapters could stand alone as a stimulating source for discussion in a class devoted to defining justice, perhaps a senior seminar. The author's conversational style, the breadth of his knowledge, and his wit make the book enjoyable, even when one is arguing with his positions.
Law and Politics Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300075847
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 8.48 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Metaphorically Speaking 1
1 Level Playing Fields and the Idea of Fairness 7
2 Discretion and the Advantage of Initiation: Choosing a Target, Bringing a Charge 32
3 Access to Information, First- and Secondhand: You Are What You Know 73
4 Voucher and the Virtue of Office: The White-Hat Factor 113
5 Burdens and Presumptions: Rescue from the Quandary of Perhaps 141
6 The Blessing of Bankroll: Financial Disparity and the Riddle of Bail 162
7 Excluding Adverse Evidence: Truth or Justice? 189
8 Appealability and the Ordeal of Jeopardy: Capitalization of Error 216
9 Truth Telling and the Limits of Ethical License: Counsel's Tolerable Deceptions 236
10 Jury Irrationality and Its Insulation: Arousing the Unimpeachable Impulse 255
11 Summary: The Fair Tilt 279
Conclusion, if any 305
Index 309
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