Walt's Reviews > Murder, U.S.A.

Murder, U.S.A. by John Godwin
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's review
Apr 12, 2011

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bookshelves: crime-historical

The author is a skillful writer who uses an expert brush to criticize our current (1970s) criminal justice system. Even if the reader disagrees with his strong conservative viewpoint, Godwin's wording and excellent use of examples makes the book a real page-turner for true crime fans.

Upon reading it once, I was amazed by the details and his analysis. I picked up the book because I saw it included a chapter on organized crime, which is my real interest. Even though this particular chapter was poorly written and factually inaccurate, I thought the rest of the book was good. However, I read it a second time based on my lingering doubts from the chapter on the racketeers. I was curious if he would give just one example of a frequently-arrest Mafia hitman who escaped multiple murders to a luxury home in Florida through the aide of skillful lawyers who used absurd delay tactics to ensure there never was a trial.

The result of the second reading with a view towards critical analysis shows that Godwin selected some of the most egregious cases of when the justice system failed to indict the entire system. Ultimately, his calls for the breakdown and removal institutions like parole boards that serve as a balance to the system reveals his conservative stance. Of course, his casual discourse on urban crime also reflects a strong conservative attitude of leave "them" alone.

He includes a lot of analysis; but he has a small list of fixes. Fixes like make mandatory sentences mandatory. He is outraged that Charles Manson can appear before a parole board after serving so little of his sentence. He ridicules the Parole Boards for considering only a 30 minute interview, but offers little in the way of reform. His comparisons to England are flimsy and nowhere does he use citations.

Final verdict, this is a mass market paperback, and it reads like one. It is a fascinating story of gruesome murders and broken courts, but it is short on facts and does not appear to consider that the system does a very impressive job considering the sheer numbers involved - numbers noticeably lacking in the book. However, in terms of entertainment and description, this is a good book.

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