Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teri Kanefield's "Guilty?: Crime, Punishment, and the Changing Face of Justice"

Teri Kanefield, an appellate lawyer and children's book writer, is the author of Rivka's Way and The Girl from the Tar Paper School. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Cricket Magazine, The Iowa Review, Education Week, and The American Literary Review.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Guilty?: Crime, Punishment, and the Changing Face of Justice, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Fifty-one year old Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested On June 3, 1961, and charged with burglarizing the Bay Harbor Poolroom in Panama City, Florida. The crime was a felony.

Clarence-–a man with a frail body and white hair–had a long criminal history, and had been in and out of prisons much of his life. He was first arrested at the age of fourteen for burglarizing a county store for clothes. He was caught the next day wearing the clothing he had stolen and was sent to a juvenile “reformatory.” Later he said of all the prisons he’d been in, that was the worst, and he carried permanent scars from the whippings he received. He was released at age twenty-two, in the middle of the Great Depression. He found a job in a shoe factory, but he was arrested again for stealing government property and sentenced to three years in federal prison. When he got out, he worked some more and saved a little money, which he sent to his parents to help them buy a house. He was arrested several more times over the years, each time for burglary.

At this time of his arrest in 1961, he’d been convicted of four felonies. If convicted of burglarizing the Bay Harbor Poolroom, it would be his fifth.

Clarence pled not guilty.
Page 99 is the start of a story. Not just any story, but the famous case of Clarence Earl Gideon, a convict from Florida whose case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and changed the law of the United States. Because of Clarence Earl Gideon, if you are arrested, you have the right to an attorney. Before Clarence’s case, you had no such right.

Page 99 exemplifies what I tried to do in this book: Make the law interesting to young readers by presenting the material the way it is taught in law school, through actual legal cases.

Intended to get young readers thinking critically about our criminal justice system, this books goes back to the basics, asking such questions as: What is a crime? Why do we punish? These questions appear simple, but in fact require us to examine the very foundation— and flaws—of our criminal justice system. Presenting the material through actual legal cases allows readers to learn the fascinating story of Clarence Earl Gideon—and many others—while considering how crime control should be balanced by due process.
Visit Teri Kanefield's website.

--Marshal Zeringue