“Guilty People” by Abbe Smith
Abbe Smith of the Georgetown University Law Center has written a new book, Guilty People. In this insightful new work, Professor Smith explores the nuanced definition of guilt, and how guiltiness relates to criminality. Combining research with her experience as a criminal lawyer, she challenges the idea that the guilty are and should be treated as a “separate species.”
Professor Smith is an American criminal defense attorney, professor of law at Georgetown University, and director of Georgetown’s Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic and E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program. She is also the author of Case of a Lifetime: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Story and Carried Away: The Chronicles of a Feminist Cartoonist.
Criminal defense attorneys protect the innocent and guilty alike, but, the majority of criminal defendants are guilty. This is as it should be in a free society. Yet there are many different types of crime and degrees of guilt, and the defense must navigate through a complex criminal justice system that is not always equipped to recognize nuances.
In Guilty People, law professor and longtime criminal defense attorney Abbe Smith gives us a thoughtful and honest look at guilty individuals on trial. Each chapter tells compelling stories about real cases she handled; some of her clients were guilty of only petty crimes and misdemeanors, while others committed offenses as grave as rape and murder. In the process, she answers the question that every defense attorney is routinely asked: How can you represent these people?
Smith’s answer also tackles seldom-addressed but equally important questions such as: Who are the people filling our nation’s jails and prisons? Are they as dangerous and depraved as they are usually portrayed? How did they get caught up in the system? And what happens to them there?
This book challenges the assumption that the guilty are a separate species, unworthy of humane treatment. It is dedicated to guilty people—every single one of us.
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