Synopses & Reviews
Henner Hess's classic work, first published almost a quarter century ago, gives a detailed picture of the typical career of mafiosi. Hess describes a distinct subculture whose behavioral patterns have been largely determined by the specific political, economic, and social history of Sicily, a society characterized by a weak state and organized on the basis of self-help. This subculture was and is the breeding ground for the strong-arm man "mafioso" or "uomo d'onore," man of honor, as he is called in Sicily, the proud, taciturn, independent man who believes in the use of violence to achieve personal goals.
As a rule, the men come from poor families and rise through violent crime, shrewd diplomacy and the building of a "family" of followers to a respected position of power and wealth. Most important are the mafioso's reciprocal arrangements with politicians and government officials whom he supports in the elections and who protect him from law enforcement. Mafia, popularly conceived as a strictly centralized secret society, is instead proven to be a system of independent families which might on many occasions cooperate, but just as easily be driven to bloody feud. Only in the last decade have there been a number of so-called "pentiti," crown witnesses who cooperate with the criminal justice system. Using their testimonies, an extensive afterword brings the book up to date.
"In Rape and the Culture of the Courtroom, Taslitz (a former prosecutor) is concerned to show how and why police, prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys use their discretion to circumvent legal reforms in rape law." -Hypatia,
"An impressive addition. Hess has written with excellent historical insight, bringing to light new facts and offering what is in important respects a new interpretation of them." -Times Literary Supplement,
"The book is excellently written and sets out its case with clarity, elaborate detail, and the useful addition of a restrained imagination." -The Criminiologist,
Rape law reform has been a stunning failure. Defense lawyers persist in emphasizing victims' characters over defendants' behavior. Reform's goals of increasing rape report and conviction rates have generally not been achieved. In Rape and the Culture of the Courtroom, Andrew Taslitz locates the cause of rape reform failure in the language lawyers use, and the cultural stories upon which they draw to dominate rape victims in the courtroom.
Rape law reform has been a stunning failure. Defense lawyers persist in emphasizing victims' characters over defendants' behavior. Reform's goals of increasing rape report and conviction rates have generally not been achieved. In Rape and the Culture of the Courtroom
, Andrew Taslitz locates the cause of rape reform failure in the language lawyers use, and the cultural stories upon which they draw to dominate rape victims in the courtroom.
Cultural stories about rape, Taslitz argues, such as the provocatively dressed woman "asking for it," are at the root of many unconscious prejudices that determine jury views. He connects these stories with real-life examples, such as the Mike Tyson and Glen Ridge rape trials, to show how rape stereotypes are used by defense lawyers to gain acquittals for their clients.
Building on Deborah Tannen's pathbreaking research on the differences between male and female speech, Taslitz also demonstrates how word choice, tone, and other lawyers' linguistic tactics work to undermine the confidence and the credibility of the victim, weakening her voice during the trial. Taslitz provides politically realistic reform proposals, consistent with feminist theories of justice, which promise to improve both the adversary system in general and the way that the system handles rape cases.
About the Author
Andrew E. Taslitz is Professor at Howard University School of Law. He is the author of five books, including Constitutional Criminal Procedure and Rape and the Culture of the Courtroom (NYU Press).