Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights


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Presumed Guilty, like the best-selling The Color of Law, is a "smoking gun" of civil rights research, a troubling history that reveals how the Supreme Court enabled racist policing and sanctioned law enforcement excesses. The fact that police are nine times more likely to kill Black men than other Americans is no accident; it is the result of an elaborate body of doctrines that allow the police and courts to presume that suspects are guilty before being charged.

Demonstrating how the prodefendant Warren Court was a brief historical aberration, Erwin Chemerinsky shows how this more liberal era ended with Nixon's presidency and the ascendance of conservative justices, whose rulings--like Terry v. Ohio and Los Angeles v. Lyons--have permitted stops and frisks, limited suits to reform police departments, and even abetted the use of chokeholds. Presumed Guilty concludes that an approach to policing that continues to exalt "Dirty Harry" can be transformed only by a robust court system committed to civil rights.