The Tilted Playing Field (Paperback)
Is Criminal Justice Unfair?
Yale University Press, 9780300183023, 326pp.
Publication Date: March 11, 1999
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In a lively exploration of the powers of the prosecutor and the prerogatives of the defense, Uviller asks where our criminal justice system is fair though unequal and where its inequalities may subvert fair results. On the one hand, he points out, the prosecutor has unmatched and virtually unreviewable discretion to choose the target of a prosecution, the charge, and to a large extent the timing of an indictment. The prosecution also is first on the scene to develop evidence and is entitled to compel the production of evidence from reluctant custodians. The lawyer for the defendant, on the other hand, enjoys virtually unrestricted license to argue contrary to his or her own sincere belief, as well as broad powers to discover evidence from the prosecutor’s file. Are these unequal advantages necessary? Are they fair? Uviller concludes that although the overall criminal justice system reflects a fair distribution of advantages and disadvantages, in certain areas the imbalance is so severe as to undermine justice. He offers realistic, carefully considered recommendations for reform in these problem areas.