Rage and a desire for vengeance after 9/11 drove the US to violate human rights on a mass scale. What were those mistakes and what lessons do they offer to others dealing with political violence? How much does rage and demands for vengeance undermine peace? [ dur:28mins. ]

  • Steve Swerdlow, esq. is Associate Professor of the Practice of Human Rights in the Department of Political and International Relations at the University of Southern California. A human rights lawyer and expert on the former Soviet region, Swerdlow was Senior Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, heading the organization’s work on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and founding its Kyrgyzstan field office. He worked as a human rights monitor for the Union of Council for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) as their Caucasus monitor in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia as well as with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Russia.
  • Brent Sasley is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas, Arlington. He is the author of the book Politics in Israel: Governing a Complex Society and the book chapter “The End of Oslo and The Second Intifada, 2000-2005.”

Then, How much does race and class determine legal outcomes in the United States? What role does the prosecutor play in the justice system?
We speak with the co-author of a new book A Fear of Too Much Justice: Race, Poverty, and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Courts. Co-authors are legendary death penalty opponent Stephen Bright and legal scholar James Kwak. [ dur: 28mins. ]

  • Our guest James Kwak is a former professor of law at the University of Connecticut and chairperson of the board of the Southern Center for Human Rights. His co-author is Stephen Bright. He teaches law at Yale and Georgetown Universities. He was director of the Southern Center for Human Rights and won multiple capital cases in the Supreme Court.

From the publisher:
Almost 70 years ago Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote there “can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.” In THE FEAR OF TOO MUCH JUSTICE: Race, Poverty, and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Courts (The New Press; June 20; 2023), legendary death penalty opponent Stephen Bright and legal scholar James Kwak show the myriad ways the US criminal legal system fails to live up to this ideal of fairness: Innocent people are condemned to death and convicted of crimes because they cannot afford lawyers and because of the color of their skin. Racial discrimination in jury selection still lives in communities that have substantial Black and Latino populations. The mentally disabled are incarcerated instead of given the treatment they need, while the poor are processed through many courts with little or no legal representation in an assembly-line fashion. And many courts act as centers of profit whose main purpose is to raise money by imposing fines on the most vulnerable in their community and jailing them when they cannot pay.

But Bright and Kwak also see the promise of meaningful change on the horizon. They point to jurisdictions across the political spectrum that have made significant progress. The use of the death penalty has plummeted, and the authors see a future where it will remain in only the most ardent holdouts. Public defender offices that protect clients from wrongful convictions have been established across the country, and many places have reduced the use of cash bail and stopped imposing fines and fees on people who cannot afford them.

The book makes the case that prosecutors have too much power and defense lawyers are often out-gunned and incentivized to encourage plea bargains. How should the system rectify this? What is the first step in fixing this imbalance?

This program is produced by Ankine Aghassian, Doug Becker, Mihika Chechi, Melissa Chiprin, and Sudd Dongre.

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