Criminal defense attorneys protect the innocent and guilty alike, but, the majority of criminal defendants are guilty. This is as it should be in a free society. Yet there are many different types of crime and degrees of guilt, and the defense must navigate through a complex criminal justice system that is not always equipped to recognize nuances.
In Guilty People, law professor and longtime criminal defense attorney Abbe Smith gives us a thoughtful and honest look at guilty individuals on trial. Each chapter tells compelling stories about real cases she handled; some of her clients were guilty of only petty crimes and misdemeanors, while others committed offenses as grave as rape and murder. In the process, she answers the question that every defense attorney is routinely asked: How can you represent these people?
Smith’s answer also tackles seldom-addressed but equally important questions such as: Who are the people filling our nation’s jails and prisons? Are they as dangerous and depraved as they are usually portrayed? How did they get caught up in the system? And what happens to them there?
This book challenges the assumption that the guilty are a separate species, unworthy of humane treatment. It is dedicated to guilty people—every single one of us.
About the Author
ABBE SMITH is an American criminal defense attorney, professor of law at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., and director of Georgetown’s Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic and E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program. She is the author of Case of a Lifetime: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Story and Carried Away: The Chronicles of a Feminist Cartoonist.
“Extraordinary, profoundly, moving…. I know of no other book that says as much about a defense lawyer’s motivations, self-doubt, frustrations. I finished it with tears in my eyes.” — Anthony Lewis
“A captivating, emotionally intense investigation of the complicated relationship between truth and the justice system.” — Kirkus Review
“A substantial work…. Smith examines a range of complex issues with insight and wit… In the end, the book transcends lawyers and clients, guilt and innocence, crime and punishment. It is a testament to what can happen when one person reaches out to another in need.” — Sister Helen Prejean
"In discussing her individual clients’ circumstances, Smith transmits a simple message that seeing ourselves, or parts of ourselves, in people who commit crime may be the first step to exacting change in our justice systems. If that be her primary objective, Guilty People meets the mark." — Law 360
"In her instructive descriptions of her defense work with petty criminals, ordinary felons, rapists, and murderers, Smith actively engages with thematic characteristics of the American system of crime and punishment." — The ICAA Journal
"Inspiring and motivational, Guilty People is unique in poignantly capturing the frailties of the law and of humans, and doing so with hope and optimism. Recommended." — Choice