Teri answers a few questions about her newest book for young readers, Guilty? Crime, Punishment and the Changing Face of Justice

Q:  Why did you write this book?

I believe the law—as taught in law school— can be presented to young readers in all its complexity and ambiguity. Personally, I was never much interested in government or civics classes—until I went to law school, and I discovered how fascinating the material is.

My hope is that a young reader will pick up this book and think, “Hey, this stuff is interesting! I want to learn more about it.”

What was your overall argument, or point?

My argument was there are problems with the ‘law and order’ model, and my point was to show young readers the competing values in the ‘due process’ model.

I believe young people are exposed to lots of law and order. They understand why the police catch ‘bad guys’ and why the prosecutor brings charges against them. The thinking and rationale behind the ‘due process’ model, however, is much less intuitive.

Why do you present problems without suggesting solutions?

The way to achieve the perfect criminal justice system is to find the perfect balance between the competing needs of the due process model and the law and order model.

Everyone will have a different idea what that perfect balance is.

My goal was to get young people thinking about how to achieve that balance, not prescribe solutions.

Why did you include the example of the killing of Osama bin Laden? What does that have to do with United States criminal law?

I used the killing of Osama bin Laden as an example of a deliberate, premeditated killing that is not [generally] considered a crime by [most] Americans. I used the killing to show that defining murder is not easy, and is often culturally biased.

In the words of one professor, quoted in the book, “Some killers are put in the electric chair. Others are given medals of honor.”

Why do you leave out so much important stuff?

A book on criminal law and procedure could easily be 2,000 pages. The law governing Fourth Amendment alone could fill a few volumes.

The book was intended to be a brief introduction, a jumping off point for discussion and further reading.

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