Politics & Society Injustice by Clive Stafford-Smith

Published on July 28th, 2012


Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America by Clive Stafford Smith

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Blurb: In 1986, Kris Maharaj, a British businessman living in Miami, was arrested for the brutal murder of two ex-business associates. His lawyer did not present a strong alibi; Kris was found guilty and sentenced to death in the electric chair. It wasn’t until a young lawyer working for nothing, Clive Stafford Smith, took on his case that strong evidence began to emerge that the state of Florida had got the wrong man on Death Row. So far, so good – except that, as Stafford Smith argues here so compellingly, the American justice system is actually designed to ignore innocence. Twenty-six years later, Maharaj is still in jail. Step by step, Stafford Smith untangles the Maharaj case and the system that makes disasters like this inevitable. His conclusions will act as a wake-up call for those who condone legislation which threatens basic human rights and, at the same time, the personal story he tells demonstrates that determination can challenge the institutions that surreptitiously threaten our freedom. (Harvill Secker, 2012)

Ed Vulliamy, The Observer 

“[An] excellent book: it is not only about institutional America, but — since Stafford Smith is a Brit — about our own special relationship with America, and the things we choose not to see or confront.”

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Robert Chesshyre, Literary Review 

“Interwoven with Maharaj’s Kafkaesque experience (enough to give any reader nightmares: it could happen to you) is Stafford Smith’s angry, though controlled, exposé of the US injustice system … Middle America will lose little sleep over Maharaj, but I hope that here people outside the magic circle of liberal QCs (Helena Kennedy, Geoffrey Robertson and Michael Mansfield are quoted on the cover) will read this book.”

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Deborah Friedell, London Review of Books 

“There are more than two million incarcerated Americans. If the system gets it right even 95 per cent of the time, more than 100,000 of them are innocent. But Stafford Smith is convinced that there are many more innocent people than that, and he uses Maharaj’s trial as a starting point for an anatomy of judicial blight, of police officers who call going to court ‘testi-lying’ and forensic experts who get away with nonsense because the defence can’t afford to hire their own experts to challenge them … We end the book not convinced that Maharaj is innocent, but certain that he shouldn’t have been found guilty. This should amount to the same thing.”

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Tony Allen Mills, Sunday Times 

“I have often wondered how Clive Stafford Smith, an English public-school toff whose family used to breed racehorses, turned into one of America’s most persistent and persuasive human-rights campaigners … Not the least of the pleasures of reading this book (if pleasure is the right word for so profoundly depressing an account of US judicial malfunction) is for the glimpses Stafford Smith offers of his startling journey from the elite environs of Cheveley Park Stud, near Newmarket, to the antiseptic waiting rooms of Florida’s death row.”

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Alexandra Harris, Guardian 

“…it’s a shame that academic propriety binds Langhamer to objective analysis in neutral language. Quotations are too often sewn together with sentences so safe they are redundant. “Men too could feel let down by love.” Well, yes. The problem is that, with material so splendidly eclectic, with exceptions multiplying more quickly than rules, conclusions are necessarily very generalised … Nonetheless, I’d gladly read a sequel that brought The English in Love into the 21st century.”

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Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday 

“He is not as other lawyers and has, accordingly, written an unlawyerly book, in ways both good and bad. On the one hand, he is passionate and humane, but on the other he is often overstated and haphazard, regularly spinning off into odd areas of irrelevance when he would be better off sticking to the point. For instance, in the middle of an interesting disquisition on money-laundering, he inserts a distracting anecdote about trying to take a pack of Newcastle Brown Ale into a high-security prison.”

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Michael Burleigh, Sunday Telegraph

“Not content with mounting a defence of his client, Stafford Smith proceeds to lambast the entire US legal system in a biased and crude way.”

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