What Justice Looks Like

What Justice Looks Like


What Justice Looks Like tells the story of two high stakes criminal cases—the 1977 prosecution of a vicious hit man and the 2016 exoneration of an innocent defendant who pled guilty to a quadruple homicide as a teenager.

It is a first-person account by the lawyer who handled both cases, separated by nearly 40 years. In the first, Samuel Damren was the prosecutor. In the second, he was lead counsel for the defense. Considered together, these cases, at opposite ends of the spectrum, illustrate what may be criminal justice’s greatest challenge: trusting the system to bring “the worst of the worst” to justice while protecting the innocent when the system’s safeguards fail.

Many believe that unjust arrests, prosecutions and convictions are an unavoidable by-product of being "tough on crime." The two polar opposite cases in What Justice Looks Like demonstrate this model for a strong criminal justice system is simply false. Instead, one of the lessons in What Justice Looks Like is that to be effective and strong, a criminal justice system must engage the community and that it can only do so by earning community trust.  Trust is not earned by words but by deeds and results, whether it be the conviction of vicious criminals against all odds, the exoneration of imprisoned defendants who in truth were innocent or simply by "doing the right thing" consistently across the community.  It is a trust that must be continually replenished and reaffirmed.

What Justice Looks Like is published by Fifth Avenue Press. It is the community publishing imprint of the Ann Arbor District Library.  Fifth Avenue Press gives voice to the diverse and original perspectives of authors in Southeastern Michigan since it began publishing in 2015.

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