Review: Courtroom 302 by Steve Bogira

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☆☆➹⁀☆4 stars☆➹⁀☆☆

What it’s about:

“Steve Bogira’s book takes us into the heart of America’s criminal justice system. Courtroom 302 is the story of one year in one courtroom in Chicago’s Cook County Criminal Courthouse, the busiest felony courthouse in the country.” We see the system through the eyes of the men and women who experience it, not only in the courtroom but in the lockup, the jury room, the judge’s chambers, the spectators’ gallery.

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My Thoughts:

Author Steve Bogira, a long time reporter for the Chicago Reader, spent a year digging through the court cases. Most cases involve uneducated, poor, drug-addicted minorities.

Sadly, the only truly empathetic people showcased in Bogira’s book are the mothers of the victims and the mothers of the defendants. Many of the judges lack ethics, or at best, show inconsistent good judgement. Judge Daniel Locallo, who is at the heart of Bogira’s story, appears to be honest and hard working…until Bogira digs up some of his questionable work as a young prosecutor. The attorneys placate the judges–to get on their good side–many times to the detriment of their clients. The defendants may–or may not–be guilty of the crime for which they’re on trial, but for the most part, they admit to being guilty of something.

The injustice is frustrating to hear. The amount of relevant evidence that is not presented in court is shocking! The story of Courtroom 302 is told through interviews with primary sources in addition to the author’s detailed research of court documents. Bogie paints a clear picture of an overburdened system that is filled with cynical, burnt out public workers. The need for change is evident however, I finished the book thing that the “outside-the-box” solutions needed were not likely to be implemented.

Mark Kamish’s excellent narration made this interesting yet dry topic come to life.

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