Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice

by Adam Benforado

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Unfair succinctly and persuasively recounts cutting-edge research testifying to the faulty and inaccurate procedures that underpin virtually all aspects of our criminal justice system, illustrating many with case studies.”—The Boston Globe

A child is gunned down by a police officer; an investigator ignores critical clues in a case; an innocent man confesses to a crime he did not commit; a jury acquits a killer. The evidence is all around us: Our system of justice is fundamentally broken.
But it’s not for the reasons we tend to think, as law professor Adam Benforado argues in this eye-opening, galvanizing book. Even if the system operated exactly as it was designed to, we would still end up with wrongful convictions, trampled rights, and unequal treatment. This is because the roots of injustice lie not inside the dark hearts of racist police officers or dishonest prosecutors, but within the minds of each and every one of us.
This is difficult to accept. Our nation is founded on the idea that the law is impartial, that legal cases are won or lost on the basis of evidence, careful reasoning and nuanced argument. But they may, in fact, turn on the camera angle of a defendant’s taped confession, the number of photos in a mug shot book, or a simple word choice during a cross-examination. In Unfair, Benforado shines a light on this troubling new field of research, showing, for example, that people with certain facial features receive longer sentences and that judges are far more likely to grant parole first thing in the morning.
Over the last two decades, psychologists and neuroscientists have uncovered many cognitive forces that operate beyond our conscious awareness. Until we address these hidden biases head-on, Benforado argues, the social inequality we see now will only widen, as powerful players and institutions find ways to exploit the weaknesses of our legal system. 
Weaving together historical examples, scientific studies, and compelling court cases—from the border collie put on trial in Kentucky to the five teenagers who falsely confessed in the Central Park Jogger case—Benforado shows how our judicial processes fail to uphold our values and protect society’s weakest members. With clarity and passion, he lays out the scope of the legal system’s dysfunction and proposes a wealth of practical reforms that could prevent injustice and help us achieve true fairness and equality before the law.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780770437770
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/16/2015
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 419,402
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Adam Benforado is an associate professor of law at Drexel University. A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he served as a federal appellate law clerk and an attorney at Jenner & Block. He has published numerous scholarly articles, and his op-eds and essays have appeared in a variety of publications including the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Legal Times. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Part I Investigation

1 The Labels We Live By ˜ The Victim 3

2 Dangerous Confessions ˜ The Detective 26

3 The Criminal Mind ˜ The Suspect 41

Part II Adjudication

4 Breaking the Rules ˜ The Lawyer 67

5 In the Eye of the Beholder ˜ The Jury 91

6 The Corruption of Memory ˜ The Eyewitness 108

7 How to Tell a Lie ˜ The Expert 133

8 Umpires or Activists? ˜ The Judge 157

Part III Punishment

9 An Eye for an Eye ˜ The Public 183

10 Throwing Away the Key ˜ The Prisoner 206

Part IV Reform

11 What We Must Overcome ˜ The Challenge 239

12 What We Can Do ˜ The Future 257

Acknowledgments 287

A Note on Sources 291

Bibliography 293

Index 368

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