High-Profile Crimes: When Legal Cases Become Social Causes

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Feb 15, 2010 - Social Science - 288 pages
0 Reviews
O. J. Simpson. The Central Park jogger. Bensonhurst. William Kennedy Smith. Rodney King. These are more than crimes and criminals, more than court cases. They are cultural events that, for better or worse, gave concrete expression to latent social conflicts in American society. In High-Profile Crimes, Lynn Chancer explores how these cases became conflated with larger social causes on a collective level and how this phenomenon has affected the law, the media, and social movements.

An astute and incisive chronicle of some of the most polarizing cases of the 1980s and 1990s, High-Profile Crimes shows that their landmark status results from the overlapping interaction of diverse participants. The merging of legal cases and social causes, Chancer argues, has wrought ambivalent effects on both social movements and the law. On the one hand, high-profile crimes offer important opportunities for emotional expression and raise awareness of social issues. But on the other hand, social problems cannot be resolved through the either/or determinations that are the goals of the legal system, creating frustration for those who look to the outcome of these cases for social progress. Guilt or innocence through the lens of the media leads to either defeat or victory for a social cause-a confounding situation that made the O. J. Simpson case, for example, unable to resolve the issues of domestic violence and police racism that it had come to symbolize.

Based on nearly two hundred interviews, Chancer's discussions of the infamous Central Park jogger and Bensonhurst cases-as well as the rape trials of William Kennedy Smith and Mike Tyson, the assault cases of Rodney King and Reginald Denny, and, finally, the O. J. Simpson murder trial-provide a convincing, multidimensional and innovative analysis of the most charged public dramas of the last two decades.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Exemplifying a Genre A Tale of Two Crimes
27
From Differing Advantage Points Smith Tyson King Denny and Simpson
113
Stepping Back
249
Dates and Descriptions of Provoking Assaults
267
Identifying the Top Twenty HighProfile Crimes19851996
272
Acknowledging Intellectual Debts and Distinctions
276
Notes
281
Works Cited
303
Index
307
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2010)

Lynn S. Chancer is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Fordham University. She is the author of two other books, including, most recently, Reconcilable Differences.
 



Bibliographic information