The Fear of Too Much Justice

Race, Poverty, and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Courts

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Pub Date Jun 20 2023 | Archive Date Jun 29 2023

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A legendary lawyer and a legal scholar reveal the structural failures that undermine justice in our criminal courts

“An urgently needed analysis of our collective failure to confront and overcome racial bias and bigotry, the abuse of power, and the multiple ways in which the death penalty’s profound unfairness requires its abolition. You will discover Steve Bright’s passion, brilliance, dedication, and tenacity when you read these pages.”
—from the foreword by Bryan Stevenson

Glenn Ford, a Black man, spent thirty years on Louisiana’s death row for a crime he did not commit. He was released in 2014—and given twenty dollars—when prosecutors admitted they did not have a case against him.

Ford’s trial was a travesty. One of his court-appointed lawyers specialized in oil and gas law and had never tried a case. The other had been out of law school for only two years. They had no funds for investigation or experts. The prosecution struck all the Black prospective jurors to get the all-white jury that sentenced Ford to death.

In The Fear of Too Much Justice, legendary death penalty lawyer Stephen B. Bright and legal scholar James Kwak offer a heart-wrenching overview of how the criminal legal system fails to live up to the values of equality and justice. The book ranges from poor people squeezed for cash by private probation companies because of trivial violations to people executed in violation of the Constitution despite overwhelming evidence of intellectual disability or mental illness. They also show examples from around the country of places that are making progress toward justice.

With a foreword by Bryan Stevenson, who worked for Bright at the Southern Center for Human Rights and credits him for “[breaking] down the issues with the death penalty simply but persuasively,” The Fear of Too Much Justice offers a timely, trenchant, firsthand critique of our criminal courts and points the way toward a more just future.

A legendary lawyer and a legal scholar reveal the structural failures that undermine justice in our criminal courts

“An urgently needed analysis of our collective failure to confront and overcome...

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ISBN 9781620970256
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Featured Reviews

What can I say this book is truth breathtaking and such an eye opener that I feel a lot of people need to read, the lengths theses men’s went to save the innocent is incredible! They deserve all the recognition!

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This book captivated me, blending the more visible issues with the criminal justice system's mistreatment of defendants with the forces not so easily seen. I learned a lot, and appreciated how wide-ranging the authors' research and arguments were. This is a worthy investment both for those familiar with the criminal justice system, and for those less familiar but interested in learning about the perils stemming from prosecutorial misconduct, judicial corruption, and the financial incentives to fear too much justice.

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Having recently re-read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption for a book club discussion, I can’t help but connect these two books. Both are powerful and eye opening.

While the authors’ styles differ, they make for a potent duo. Stevenson’s work is somewhat more readable and personal but Bright and Kwak do an excellent job of updating the earlier work and give a more organized and detailed overview of the legal process. Both books make a passionate and heart-wrenching statement on the failures of this country’s criminal legal system.

The Fear of Too Much Justice… is an important and timely read – highly recommended.

FYI - I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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