By Nathan Aaseng
The author continues his useful series on decision making with incisive coverage of eight famous criminal trials of the 20th century. Beginning with the Lindbergh kidnapping case, he also covers the New York Times libel case (the state of Alabama's attempt to stifle accusations of racism), the Chicago Seven (antiwar conspiracy), Patty Hearst as outlaw, Dan White's "Twinkie defense," the Ford Motor Company's Pinto explosion, "Subway Vigilante" Bernhard Goetz, and O.J. Simpson's acquittal of murder. For each case, the author presents just enough information for readers to assume the role of juror, with three options from which to choose. He then reveals the actual results and analyzes the consequences. This format balances the passions of those on all sides of these cases and allows Aaseng to present controversial views in a palatable way. This is particularly effective when dealing with opinions that would be difficult to defend today (such as those of the Alabama officials) but that are necessary for historical understanding. An outline of how a jury is chosen is included, as is an introduction to the place of the jury in our legal system. Black-and-white photos show some relevant scenes (Chicago demonstrations), and courtroom sketches as well as portraits of famous figures are included. Other books on famous trials focus on the constitutional issues to the exclusion of the passions of the time, so this one makes a unique contribution.