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Friday, January 13, 2012

Reading list suggestions for Crim Students

A student of mine asked me recently about books that give an inside feel of what it's like to be a lawyer in the criminal justice system. I thought I'd crowdsource and invite you to weigh in. 

Off the top of my head, I could think of a few. I haven't read them all or even many of them, so perhaps I should add them to my Amazon wish list...feel free to add more suggestions in the comments.  

David Feige, Indefensible

John Kroger, Convictions

Dershowitz, The Best Defense

Abbe Smith, Case of a Lifetime: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Story

Kevin Davis, Defending the Damned 

Stephen Bogira, Courtroom 302


Posted by Administrators on January 13, 2012 at 12:18 PM in Books, Criminal Law, Dan Markel | Permalink


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I second INDEFENSIBLE and CONVICTIONS - I have assigned both for Crim and Crim Pro and PR. I also second REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, though I haven't assigned it. Gary Delsohn, THE PROSECUTORS, is also good - it's a quicker read than CONVICTIONS and might work better as an "opposing text" to INDEFENSIBLE ...
And let's not forget Scheck, Neufeld, & Dwyer, ACTUAL INNOCENCE, which is great and maddening and inspiring.

Posted by: Brian J. Foley | Jan 18, 2012 8:31:10 PM

I wasn't aware that Yale University Press was pursuing the "true crime" genre. Fairstein is an interesting figure, Kroger is a friend, and Dershowitz is, well, Dershowitz. But myself, I would recommend the good writer over the memoirist every time.

Posted by: Sam Buell | Jan 17, 2012 11:23:00 AM

I read that as a New Yorker article and I liked it but I probably wouldn't have assigned that to my crim students. I'll be curious to hear how your students react to that example of the true crime genre!

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jan 15, 2012 1:19:12 PM

Thanks for the helpful post Dan. I am requiring this year Janet Malcolm's "Iphigenia in Forest Hills" (YUP, hardback alas), a small book-length version of a New Yorker article. Best thing I've read that captures the real feel of a criminal investigation and trial. Helps, I think, that it was written by an outsider who doesn't ordinarily look at the criminal justice system (and of course has considerable talents as a reporter and writer). We are going to book-group it in a series of break-out evenings, which is also a new one for me, so we'll see how that goes. I've been thinking a lot the last couple of years about how to do a better job in Crim of teaching them how facts work.

Posted by: Sam Buell | Jan 15, 2012 8:59:21 AM

Boomtown DA by Carol Vance


Posted by: Stephen Aslett | Jan 14, 2012 10:20:45 PM

I know nothing about this area (I liked Irving Stone's "Clarence Darrow for the Defense" but that's probably not typical), but am friendly with Larry Marshall who runs the clinical program at Stanford. He gave an after-dinner talk to Stanford alumni in Boston, and gave out a book by Thomas Frisbie and Randy Garrett, "Victims of Justice Revisited" about the death penalty conviction of Rolando Cruz in Illinois (in which Larry was involved).

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Jan 14, 2012 11:51:12 AM

Oh, also, if the student is interested in death penalty work, there's a recent memoir by a capital defense attorney in Texas: David Dow, "The Autobiography of an Execution."

Posted by: Sara Mayeux | Jan 13, 2012 7:05:17 PM

I haven't read it but I have heard good things about "Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court" by Amy Bach.

Posted by: Sara Mayeux | Jan 13, 2012 7:03:29 PM

Andrea Lyon, Angel of Death Row.

Alex Heard, The Eyes of Willie McGee

Posted by: Steven Lubet | Jan 13, 2012 5:23:49 PM

Here are two more titles you should add to your list: Reversal of Fortune and Gideon's Trumpet, although the second one is more about the appeal process.

Posted by: Prof. Alberto Bernabe | Jan 13, 2012 4:51:25 PM

Over on FB, someone suggested Linda Fairstein's Sexual Violence: Our War against Rape (sex crimes prosecutor memoir).

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jan 13, 2012 1:18:39 PM

I don't have anything to add, but I'd like to second the suggestion of Fiege's Indefensible, above. It's a powerful book, especially for potential criminal defense attorneys who are somewhat troubled by "how can you defense these people?" questions.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Jan 13, 2012 1:13:14 PM

"Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated" (Lola Vollen & Dave Eggers, eds.) is one that I recommend to friends and strangers when the topic of false confessions and wrongful convictions comes up. Come to think of it, I should read it again myself.

Posted by: Ursula | Jan 13, 2012 12:45:45 PM

Graham Burnett's, A Trial By Jury might be a good read. It tells the story from the perspective of a juror - Burnett is also a Princeton historian - and his experience when he unexpectedly takes over the role of jury foreman. I have only read excerpts of the book, but I thought it looked very interesting back when it came out.

Posted by: Miriam Baer | Jan 13, 2012 12:35:38 PM

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