Are Too Many Guilty Defendants Going Free?

By Cossack, Roger | American Criminal Law Review, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Are Too Many Guilty Defendants Going Free?


Cossack, Roger, American Criminal Law Review


The Honorable Harold Rothwax vs. Professor Alan Dershowitz Moderated By: Roger Cossack March 8, 1996 Georgetown University Law Center

MICHAEL CARROLL: Good evening. My name is Michael Carroll. I am the Editor-In-Chief of the American Criminal Law Review. I'm glad that so many of you were able to come out on such a cold evening to be with us here tonight. On behalf of the Review, I want to welcome all of you here to the Georgetown University Law Center. First let me thank Dean Areen, Dean Tushnet, and Professors Seidman and Dash for their continuing support. Additionally, I would like to thank the staff of the ACLR as well as Simon and Schuster and Random House for their support. The American Criminal Law Review is presenting this debate as part of our celebration of twenty-five years here at Georgetown. The Review is dedicated to publishing leading scholarship on current criminal law topics. One of the hottest topics right now is whether the criminal justice system is letting too many guilty defendants go free. On that topic we are honored to welcome Judge Harold Rothwax and Professor Alan Dershowitz. We are very pleased to have as our moderator tonight Roger Cossack, co-host of CNN's program Burden of Proof. Mr. Cossack knows this issue inside and out. He has been both a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney. He once argued a case on the exclusionary rule that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. And at this point I would like to turn the evening over to Mr. Cossack.

ROGER COSSACK: Good evening and welcome to "Burden of Proof Prime Time." As you can see, it's going to be a little better because I don't have to put up with that Greta Van Susteren tonight. You know when I was a kid I always wanted to be a boxer, if you can believe that, and I even went so far as to have had a couple of amateur fights. One time I ran into the lightweight champ of the Navy and I learned my lesson very quickly--that perhaps boxing was not going to be my career. Then I thought that maybe someday I would be the third man in the ring, you know the referee. Well tonight I get my opportunity to do such a thing because I am going to stand in the middle of two champions. We're going to have debating tonight, as you know, Judge Rothwax and Alan Dershowitz, two leaders in their field and two diverse points of view.

First, Judge Rothwax: Harold Rothwax has been a judge in New York City for twenty-five years and has handled some very important and famous cases. Prior to his judgeship, he was a senior trial attorney at the Legal Aid Society in New York. He's been a lecturer at Columbia Law School and was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1984 at Yale Law School. Ironically, prior to being called the toughest judge in New York City, he was a card-carrying member of the ACLU. There is nothing hidden here tonight, Judge. Most recently, he has written a fine book called Guilty: The Collapse of the Criminal Justice System, so you sort of know where he comes from.

Debating him tonight will be that well-known scholar and bon vivant Alan Dershowitz, who has been a full professor at Harvard University since he was twenty-eight years old. He is a prolific writer who has written seven previous books and hundreds of articles, is a syndicated columnist, and most recently has an article in Penthouse magazine, which I would like to talk to you about a little later. He's a civil libertarian, and Time magazine has called him the top lawyer of last resort, a sort of judicial St. Jude, which is an interesting title for a man who has written a book called Chutzpah. His clients have included O.J. Simpson, von Bulow, Michael Milken, Michael Tyson, and other famous people.

Being champions, both Judge Rothwax and Professor Dershowitz have the ability to make sure that God or the deity is on both of their sides. In his book, Mr. Dershowitz points out that O.J. Simpson called him his "God forbid" lawyer, meaning "God forbid: If I'm convicted Alan Dershowitz will write my appeal. …

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