You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Even if you are completely innocent of a crime or wrongdoing and have nothing to hide, it can be easy (much easier than you probably think) to incriminate yourself when questioned by law enforcement in the United States, especially when a situation arises without warning. American citizens’ Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights exist for important reasons, and knowing just how to exercise those rights without intentionally or unintentionally waiving them is crucial, as author and law professor James Duane illustrates in You Have the Right to Remain Innocent.

This is a fairly short but informative book about why and how to protect oneself in the face/midst of a criminal justice system where, unfortunately, even the innocent can be proven guilty.

Now, the book’s information could have been better organized. The author’s practical advice is scattered through the book without section headings or something that would make for easier reference. It would have been helpful if, after going on about legal case histories, the system’s flaws, and what citizens should not do when questioned by law enforcement, the author had ended the book with a concise summary of his advice, reiterating exactly what to do step by step, along with what one should expect after respectfully declaring, “I want a lawyer.”

Nevertheless, this book should be eye-opening for many everyday citizens and can serve as a foundation for understanding the critical constitutional rights in question.

 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Just MercyJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

I was on edge a good deal of the time while reading Just Mercy, much as I would be while reading a legal thriller, only these were accounts of actual people, actual trials, actual tragedies. Victims of wrongful condemnation. Incarcerated women and children abused behind prison walls. Racism, classism, and other -isms that feed off of insecurity, ignorance, fear.

Oh, I was previously aware, on a modest level, of the kind of inequities that Bryan Stevenson’s book brings to light concerning the nation’s criminal justice system, so there wasn’t anything particularly shocking here for me. But my conviction around humanity’s ongoing need for empathy and compassion was strengthened while reading through this compelling, and many times heartbreaking, narrative. It reaffirmed my belief that we have to look deeper, to listen more intently, to not be so quick to think that we’ve got the next individual all summed up, that we know his/her whole story–since, again and again, when we’re quick to assume “we know it all” already, it hinders us from actually listening and learning something. And, oftentimes, that something we’re missing could save our lives.

Stevenson’s work makes it quite clear that there’s so much more to be done to advance justice and mercy, which we all need. Yet, even incremental victories bring us closer to something better, and this book’s power is in its carrying and conveying the hope that better is indeed possible when we believe and work for it.

This should prove to be a timely narrative for millions of people.
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Note for my blog readers: not out of keeping with the nature of the subject matter, this book contains a minimal amount of profanity.