By Clark Isaacs, Clark’s Eye on Books
Timely is when a book hits the store shelves and the subject is extremely volatile. Let’s Get Free, A Hip – Hop Theory of Justice by Paul Butler is such a book. Butler examines the issues which were similar in nature to Professor Gates arrest before they even happened.
Butler, a victim himself, when the police jumped to conclusions because he was black! He is a victim because he was a United States Prosecuting Attorney, who committed an alleged offense which led to his arrest and subsequent trial. Butler is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School who had to prove his innocence. He never was presumed innocent as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Butler was exonerated of wrong-doing, but had to do it by means of a jury trial.
In his words: “I like justice and fair play. It turns out that we don’t have a lot of either in our criminal justice system right now. This book is about how to get them back. My main concern is you – the law-abiding person. I want to keep you safe and free.”
Many who get into the criminal justice system are guilty of petty crimes and serve large sentences. Some states effectively treat the problems with marijuana as a fine under $100, while others lock up those with a similar offense for 5 years. Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the offense and the punishment do not fit the crime. Using cocaine or having it in one’s possession carries a lesser penalty than cheaper crack cocaine which is the drug of choice for the black community, because of its affordability. Butler points out the percentages of blacks in the jail system in both state and federal institutions are higher than other races because of this disparity.
How can this be rectified? Well, the people can use what he calls the Jury Nullification System. Jurors can find the defendant not guilty by ignoring the evidence and using their own common sense, thereby forcing the system to change gross miscarriages of justice.
Butler points to his own trial, where he was faced with a police officer he knew lied on the stand against him when he said he saw Butler put sawdust on the complainant’s steps. Only through sharp cross-examination by his defense counsel was he able to overcome this diabolical scheme to convict him. Shortly after his trial, he left the Justice Department because he felt he could not prosecute marginal cases any longer.
With budgets skyrocketing for the incarceration of criminals who have created non-violent offenses, Butler recommends house arrest, early release, probation, or an electronic device to be used as cost-saving alternatives. He points out that these various methods can be put into effect now and that our “lock-’em-up” culture is not all that it is cracked-up to be.
Remember this book the next time that you or a family member sit on a jury. Consider the punishment to be imposed on the defendant and how it relates to the crime. Society might best be served by your participation in the Jury Nullification System by voting NOT GUILTY because the punishment does not fit the crime!
Let’s Get Free, A Hip – Hop Theory of Justice
Author: Paul Butler
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Published The New Press
Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic who is published in local newspapers and national book review lists. Contact Clark through his website at clarkisaacs.ning.com or through NewsBlaze.