Emily's Reviews > Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse

Courtroom 302 by Steve Bogira
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Nov 10, 2009

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The next book I read was Courtroom 302, in which a Chicago journalist spends a year in a low-level criminal courtroom, observing the judge, prosecutors, public defenders, defendants, witnesses, and jurors. I found the book interesting primarily because the court was very similar to one in which I served as a juror a few years ago, only the author of the book lavishes the kind of research and attention on each defendant that no one in the criminal justice system has time to do. He shows how most cases are disposed of through plea bargains and how a judicial election might taint a judge's decisions, how a publicity-fueled "heater" case is treated versus an ordinary drug arrest. Locallo, the judge of Courtroom 302, comes off as serious-minded and fair, but still flawed. The defendants are humanized, or at least put in context. Above all, the author shows how the court milieu becomes unremarkable and quotidian for both the staff and the defendants. I thought the book was a bit longer than it needed to be--there are several "subplots" that could probably have been omitted--but I still found it worthwhile.

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