On May 13, 1988, Stephen Roy Carr, a so-called mountain man living in Michaux State Forest in southcentral Pennsylvania, shot two female hikers while they were making love at a campsite near the Appalachian Trail. Rebecca Wight died at the scene. Claudia Brenner, despite five bullet wounds, survived to testify against her attacker.
In this book, H. L. Pohlman reconstructs the dramatic story of this murder case and traces its disposition through the criminal justice system. Drawing on interviews with participants as well as court records, he closely examines competing interpretations of the evidence. Was the attack a hate crime? A sex crime? A class crime? At the same time, he shows how a broad range of substantive and procedural issues -- from the rights of the accused to evaluation of potential mitigating circumstances -- can influence the assessment of culpability in homicide cases.
Much of Pohlman's analysis centers around two fundamental and related questions: To what extent did the adversarial system facilitate or hinder the discovery of the "whole truth" in the Carr case? And was justice served? Pohlman concludes by revisiting the ongoing debate over the nature of the American criminal justice system and the legitimacy of its ultimate sanction -- the death penalty.
H. L. Pohlman is professor of political science at Dickinson College. He is editor of Political Thought and the American Judiciary, published by the University of Massachusetts Press.
"Here is a lucid narrative of a typical murder trial, written to give the average citizen a taste of how our legal process works when not turned by the media glare into a prurient sideshow." -- Kirkus Reviews