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Crimes Of The Century: From Leopold And Loeb To O. J. Simpson
by Gilbert Geis And Leigh B. Bienen
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From Library Journal
Noted criminologist Geis and law school lecturer Bienen present vivid accounts of five of the most famous crimes and trials of the 20th century. The cases of Leopold and Loeb, the Scottsboro boys, the Lindbergh kidnapping, Alger Hiss, and O.J. Simpson certainly merit inclusion, though the Sacco-Vanzetti case is inexplicably missing. Though each case is covered from crime through punishment (or acquittal) in fewer than 50 pages, the depth of historical detail and legal analysis is remarkable. The authors are particularly adept at placing these crimes within both their immediate historical settings and the larger societal issues (e.g., racism, Cold War anxiety, pre-World War II isolationism) that run below the surface. They likewise provide considerable insight into the effects of highly publicized trials on the popular perception of the administration of justice. After the discussion of each trial, the authors include an extensive and informative guide to books for further reading. Highly recommended for all libraries.?Patrick Petit, Catholic Univ. Law Lib., Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Geis is a professor of criminology at the University of California, Irvine; Bienen is a lecturer in the law school at Northwestern University. In their recounting of five important trials, they rarely break new ground in revealing facts of the cases, though many of the previously known but obscure facts are quite interesting to those with only passing familiarity with some of them. However, the author's primary concern is the political and social background that make the cases so sensational. They describe with chilling effect the racial environment that allowed the travesty surrounding the Scottsboro "boys" trials. In the case of Alger Hiss, the authors hold up a mirror to the rapidly widening schisms in our post-war political culture. Many of the details of the Simpson trial are familiar, but Geis and Bienen offer interesting perspectives on why some important witnesses were perceived as credible. For legal scholars as well as social historians, this work is a valuable tool, and laymen should find it an enjoyable read. Jay Freeman
From Kirkus Reviews
A look at five famous trials that transfixed a nation. Geis, a criminologist, and Bienen, who teaches at Northwestern School of Law, contend that the five cases they discussLeopold and Loeb, the Scottsboro boys,the Lindbergh baby, Alger Hiss, and O.J. Simpson have left a major imprint on our collective consciousness because they represent a mysterysuch as he ambiguity of rebuttable evidence or a defendants unwavering claims to innocence, or, in the case of Alger Hiss, the impeaccable credentials the accused and the disreputableness of his accuser. Successful trials are overly dependent on skilled, high-priced lawyersand on the passions of the times. They also argue that these cases highlight the tensions, the inadequacies, and the underlying processes of our justice system. The O.J. Simpson case, they argue, underscores the sloppiness with which judges give warrants to the policea sloppiness that passes unremarked on until a high-priced legal team is able to publicize it. The authors offer a fair analysis of celebrated cases that address the need to see that true justice is done.s -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
The National Law Journal, Surfing the books: summer reading, July 5, 1999
Yes. O.J. gets a chapter. So do Leopold and Loeb, the Scottsboro defendants and Bruno Hauptmann. But the crime that may resonate most with readers is the perjury of Alger Hiss. The authors tell the story in terms eerily familiar to a contemporary reader: A dogged Republican accuses a Democrat of malfeasance that allegedly occurred a decade before, and the parties join in a battle that pits uninhibited prosecutorial zeal against a defendants maddening, almost hubristic, dissembling. The authors try to draw lessons -- about criminal behavior, racism, the death penalty, etc. -- from each case they review.
"The authors offer a fair analysis of celebrated cases that address the need to see that true justice is done."--Kirkus Reviews
"What makes the book so enjoyable and worthwhile-beyond the riveting, sometimes gory details of the misdeeds it chronicles-is its sophisticated exploration of the myriad social and intellectual currents that combine to create a crime of the century."--Jonathan S. Shapiro, American Lawyer
"A gripping book."--Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times
"For legal scholars as well as social historians, this work is a valuable tool, and laymen should find it an enjoyable read."--Booklist
The American Lawyer, December, 1998, by Jonathan S. Shapiro
Geis and Bienen are to be commended for having said fresh and interesting things about matters one would have thought had been discussed quite literally to death....In particular, their consideration of the impact of journalism, how the news of both cases [Lindbergh baby kidnapping and O.J. Simpson murder case] was reported, and the role of new journalistic innovations -- radio in Lindbergh, gavel-to-gavel television coverage in Simpson -- is extremely valuable....Why these [five] cases stand out, why they fascinate us, often tells us more about society as a whole than the crimes or trial themselves. Nowhere is that clearer than in the authors remarkable consideration of the Scottsboro Boys rape trials in Alabama in the 1930s, a sordid mess of racial injustice that rightfully made defense lawyer Samuel Leibowitz a national hero and led to important changes in how juries are selected in this country....What makes the book so enjoyable and worthwhile -- beyond the riveting, sometimes gory details of the misdeeds it chronicles -- is its sophisticated exploration of the myriad social and intellectual currents that combine to create a crime of the century.
Susan Jacobs, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Justice Quarterly, Vol 16 No. 3, September, 1999, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
"In setting out the details of these cases, the authors have done a remarkable job of including an enormous amount of valuable information in a relatively short volume....Each case is set firmly in its historical and political context. This aspect is critically important: it enables students, who seem, at least to this reviewer, to have little sense or appreciation of history, to understand why the case developed as it did in its time, and to understand the community's response....These cases and their central characters are personalized. The resulting 'color' commentary makes for good reading and invites the student to realize that this was real life for real people, with consequences that lasted far beyond the verdict....This is simply an excellent volume, well written and researched, and complete with a detailed annotated bibliography for each case. It is a pleasure to read."
The authors offer a fair analysis of celebrated cases that address the need to see that true justice is done.
The story of five dramatic trials that dazzled the media and captivated the American public.
Card catalog description
Five dramatic trials of the twentieth century that dazzled the media and captivated the American public are the subject of this provocative book. Each case study details the crime, the police investigation, and the court proceedings, profiles the major players, and examines the outcome and aftermath of the trial. The authors untangle the perplexities surrounding the cases and illuminate the many mysteries that remain unsolved today. Taken together, these well-publicized, highly controversial crimes of the century and the public battleground on which they sought resolution disclose the tensions, inadequacies, and underlying elements of criminal justice adjudication.
About the Author
Gilbert Geis is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society, at the University of California, Irvine. He is a former President of the American Society of Criminology and recipient of its Edwin H. Sutherland Award for outstanding research. He is the co-author of A Trial of Witches: A Seventeenth-Century Witchcraft Prosecution. Leigh B. Bienen is a Senior Lecturer at the Northwestern University School of Law. A former public defender, she has published numerous articles on homicide, the death penalty, juries, and sex offenses. She is the co-author of Jurors and Rape.
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