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The Trial: A History, from Socrates to O. J. Simpsonby Sadakat Kadri
Synopses & Reviews
For as long as accuser and accused have faced each other in public, criminal trials have been establishing far more than who did what to whom, and in this fascinating book, Sadakat Kadri surveys four thousand years of courtroom drama. Kadri journeys from the silence of ancient Egypt's Hall of the Dead to the clamor of twenty-first-century Hollywood to show how emotion and fear have inspired Western notions of justice, and the extent to which they still riddle its trials today. He explains, for example, how the jury emerged in medieval England from trials by fire and water, in which validations of vengeance were presumed to be divinely supervised, and how delusions identical to those that once sent witches to the stake were revived as accusations of Satanic child abuse during the 1980s. Lifting the lid on a particularly bizarre niche of legal history, he tells how European lawyers once prosecuted animals, objects, and corpses, and argues that the same instinctive urge to punish is still apparent when a child or mentally ill defendant is accused of sufficiently heinous crimes. But this history is about aspiration as well as ignorance. It shows how principles such as the right to silence and the right to confront witnesses, hallmarks of due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, were derived from the Bible by twelfth-century monks. It also tells of show trials from Tudor England to Stalin's Soviet Union, but contends that "no-trials", in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, are just as repugnant to Western traditions of justice and fairness. With governments everywhere eroding legal protections in the name of an indefinite war on terror, this analysis could hardly be timelier. Encyclopedic and entertaining, comprehensive and colorful, this book rewards curiosity and an appreciation of the absurd but tackles as well questions that are profound. Who has the right to judge, and why? What did past civilizations hope to achieve through scapegoats and sacrifices, and to what extent are defendants still made to bear the sins of society at large? The author addresses such themes through scores of meticulously researched stories, all told with the verve and wit.
Ranging from ancient Greece to the present day, an entertaining history of the criminal trial begins with the trial of Socrates and ranges over the course of more than two thousand years, detailing the events, outcomes, and implications of the changing world of criminal justice. 20,000 first printing.
About the Author
SADAKAT KADRI is a practicing English barrister and qualified New York attorney. He studied history and law at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with first-class honors, and has a master’s degree from Harvard Law School. Though primarily a jury trial advocate, he has worked at the ACLU in New York, once helped to prosecute an African dictator for murder, and has conducted numerous appeals on behalf of death-row prisoners from the Caribbean. He has contributed to publications ranging from the International Legal Practitioner to The Erotic Review, he wrote the first travel guide to postrevolutionary Prague in 1991, and he won The Spectator’s Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing in 1998. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
From Eden to ordeals — The Inquisition — The jury trial (1) — The witch trial — The trials of animals, corpses, and things — The Moscow show trials — The war crimes trials — The jury trial (2) : a theater of justice.
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