An enlightening, intensely researched examination of violations of the constitutional principles that preserve individual rights and civil liberties from courtrooms to classrooms. With telling anecdote and detail, Pulitzer Prize-winner David K. Shipler explores the territory where the Constitution meets everyday America, where legal compromises-before and since 9/11-have undermined the criminal justice system's fairness, enhanced the executive branch's power over citizens and immigrants, and impaired some of the freewheeling debate and protest essential in a constitutional democracy. Shipler demonstrates how the violations tamper with America's safety in unexpected ways. While a free society takes risks to observe rights, denying rights creates other risks. A suspect's right to silence may deprive police of a confession, but a forced confession is often false. Honoring the right to a jury trial may be cumbersome, but empowering prosecutors to coerce a guilty plea means evidence goes untested, the charge unproved. An investigation undisciplined by the Bill of Rights may jail the innocent and leave the guilty at large and dangerous.
In this fascinating and provocative account, scholar and former New York Times reporter Shipler (The Working Poor) investigates the current state of the average American's rights, and probes the more extreme boundaries where constitutional freedoms often slip. We meet an American terror suspect abused and held indefinitely without access to attorneys, three Rwandan prisoners who falsely confess to FBI agents to avoid further torture by interrogators in their own country, a 17-year-old Long Island boy who does the same after a cop lies to him about his father's last words, and legal immigrants forced out of the country over petty infractions for which they'd years ago paid the fines and done the time. We watch as prosecutors, according to the author, armed with unfair sentencing guidelines, stack the deck against those who maintain their innocence rather than plea bargain, or who can't afford adequate legal counsel in an overtaxed public defense system. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens find their rights to free speech and privacy eroded as biased restrictions curtail political demonstrations and keep students from voicing dissent, and as post-September 11 fears usher in a new era of warrantless wiretapping and government surveillance. This book is a must for readers who want to stay informed of their rights in the shadowy territory where the government's need for order and security overstep constitutional protections. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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March 06, 2012
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