The book begins where the defendants begin their time at Cook County Criminal Courthouse, a courthouse that has about fifteen hundred prisoners pass through the door weekly. Bogira explains the step by step process that occurs before the defendant even gets to the courtroom in the prologue of the book. Here Bogira sets the plot for the rest of the book by introducing many defendants of different ages, races, and criminal backgrounds. He doesn’t go into too much detail with each, but makes sure the reader knows the process that takes place before the courtroom.
The first case examined by Bogira, is the case of Larry Bates. This case shows the major difficulties that are faced when dealing with drug crimes. Bates is a man that has problems with drugs, he is smart enough to know that he’s better off when he stays away from drugs; but can’t seem to pull it together. In the Bates case Judge Locallo gives Bates many chances to straighten his life out. Following Bates’ second drug possession offence, Locallo gives him “paper on paper,” or probation for a second time which is rare. Bates continues to mess up, and Locallo tries his hardest to keep him out of prison; but one too many times for Bates and he ends up doing seven and a half years in prison.
Bogira reveals one burglary case that demonstrates the concerns surrounding public defenders or PD’s. Many defendants say that PD stands for “Penitentiary Dispenser” (Bogira p.126), believing that the quality of the aid that they receive from the state is worthless. Many of the defendants believe they could have won their cases if they could afford real lawyers. But in the case that Bogira observes the PD does a very nice job at presenting evidence and the defendant is acquitted.
Then Bogira introduces the highest-profile case of the year, “The Bridgeport Case.” This case engages in the brutal assault of a 13-year-old African-American who travelled to the predominantly white community of Bridgeport with two friends to get air for his bicycle tires. Frank Caruso Jr. and two other young white males confronted the three teenagers and make it clear that they were not welcome in the neighborhood. The three white males chased down and put the young African-American in a six day coma. This case is the center of attention for several issues that Bogira discusses within the criminal justice system.
Issues concerning “The Bridgeport Case” were race, politics, prejudice, and compassion. The issue with race that Judge...