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Library Journal Review
This thought-provoking analysis of legal issues concerns the Goetz case. Goetz, the so-called ``subway vigilante,'' shot four black teenagers on the subway in New York City. His main alibi was self-defense. Fletcher, a Columbia University law professor, discusses the judicial history and interpretation of self-defense. He then leads us through the trial, which resulted in Goetz's acquittal on all charges except gun possession. Fletcher dwells at length on implications, balancing a person's right to self-defense vs. society's need to maintain order. Though the analysis is highly legalistic, Fletcher conveys his ideas in a style easily understood by lay readers. Highly recommended. Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib. Cambridge, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Fletcher's purpose is to tell Bernhard Goetz's story and to illuminate the vexatious issue of self-defense in the criminal law. He accomplishes that purpose with clarity and style. Present from the beginning of the trial (with the prescreening of the jurors), Fletcher has an excellent vantage point from which to tell this story. He describes coherently the terms of imminence, necessity, proportionality, and intention as they relate to the law of self-defense. He clarifies the differences among punitive, individualist, and social theories of self-defense and the differences between subjective and objective standards of self-defense. In this context the criterion of reasonableness as a foundation of law is explained. Fletcher explores jury selection and the sitting jury, both as to what they did hear and therefore did know and what they did not hear and therefore did not know. Throughout he makes clear the difficulties in interpreting and applying statutory law in this difficult legal realm. Some will challenge his interpretation of the racist elements in the trial, as well as his claim that the Bible says "Thou shalt not murder," not "Thou shalt not kill." (Indeed, in both Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 the commandment is "You shall not kill.") Nevertheless, the book is important and should be read by anyone interested in the concept of self-defense and in what happened at the Goetz trial. There is no bibliography, but the endnotes are quite good. Highly recommended. -M. A. Foley, Marywood College