Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990

By Samuel Walker | Go to book overview

1
Discretion and Its Discontents

Two Black Men: Symbols of Crime and Justice

Edward Garner and Willie Horton are symbols of the bitter politics of crime and justice in contemporary America. The controversies surrounding their lives reflect the deep divisions in American society about the apparent failures of the criminal justice system. For some, the system has failed to promote justice by discriminating against the poor, racial minorities, and other powerless people. For others, it has failed to control crime, leaving the law-abiding majority vulnerable to dangerous criminals.

Edward Garner was only fifteen years old when he was shot and killed by members of the Memphis, Tennessee, police force on October 3, 1974. 1 Officers Elton Hymon and Leslie Wright spotted Garner climbing a chain-link fence. Suspecting him of burglary, they shouted "Police, halt." When he did not stop, they shot him in the back of the head, killing him. Garner was 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighed between 100 and 110 pounds, and had in his possession a stolen purse with $10 in it.

A suit on Garner's behalf eventually reached the Supreme Court, and in 1985 the Court declared unconstitutional the "fleeing felon" rule under which the Memphis police had shot Garner. Tennessee v. Garner was one in a long line of Court decisions placing procedural restraints that are designed to control the discretion of police officers and other officials.

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Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Discretion and Its Discontents 3
  • 2 - Police Discretion 21
  • Conclusions 52
  • 3 - The Two Bail Reform Movements 54
  • Conclusions 79
  • 4 - The Plea-Bargaining Problem 81
  • Conclusions 108
  • 5 - Sentencing Reform 112
  • Conclusions 141
  • 6 - A System Tamed? an Interim Report on the Control of Discretion 145
  • Conclusion 156
  • Notes 157
  • Index 185
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