Crime and Punishment in American History

Crime and Punishment in American History

Crime and Punishment in American History

Crime and Punishment in American History

Synopsis

In a panoramic history of our criminal justice system from Colonial times to today, one of our foremost legal thinkers shows how America fashioned a system of crime and punishment in its own image.

Excerpt

About three and a half centuries ago, there was a stir in the colony of New Haven, Connecticut. A sow had given birth to a "monstrous" piglet. In the minds of the colonists, this was no accident. Surely the misbirth was some sort of omen. Specifically, it had to be a sign of sin, a sign of a revolting, deadly crime: carnal intercourse with the mother pig.

Who could have done this horrendous act? The finger of suspicion pointed to Thomas Hogg (unfortunate name). Hogg insisted he was innocent. Was he telling the truth? The magistrates put him to the test: they took him to a pigsty, and forced him to scratch at two sows in the enclosure. One sow, the mother of the monster-piglet, reacted with a show of "lust" when Hogg touched her. The other sow made no reaction at all. Hogg's guilt was now crystal clear.

Another scene: it is New York City, spring 1989. A group of young males in their teens, mostly black, sweep through the darkness of Central Park, in a mood of wild exuberance. First they chase a man on a bicycle. When he gives them the slip, they find and attack a young woman who, somewhat recklessly, has been jogging in the park. The woman fights back, but she is all alone; there are many of them, and they are much too strong for her. They rape her, beat her savagely, and leave her bleeding body in the bushes. The woman, who is white and works for a brokerage house, comes within an inch of death, yet somehow survives. The police find and arrest the young men who attacked her, and they go on trial in a blaze of publicity.

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