Erwin Chemerinsky’s Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights is an important and upsetting read. Chemerinsky, a constitutional lawyer and professor, walks us through decades of shockingly bad sometimes overtly racist rulings made by the Supreme Court that have served to help create our current police state.
The number of cases and the way they are explained make Presumed Guilty an easy to understand read, even for those who aren’t too familiar with criminal law and procedure. Not only does Chemerinsky do a good job briefly summarizing the important facts of each case, but he shows how the rulings work together to destroy the rights many Americans still believe they have.
The only thing about the book that doesn’t make sense is Chemerinsky’s desire to believe that Congress and/or local governments could be moved to act to protect the rights of Americans, especially black Americans, from unfair policing. Chemerinsky actually writes about the George Floyd Act as proof that the political system may actually respond to protect us from the police. Sadly, we now know the George Floyd Act, as weak as it was, is now dead in Congress.
Even though Presumed Guilty can’t find solutions to problems our society is unwilling to fix, the book is an important contribution to our understanding of why policing is out of control, racist, and in need of massive reform.
Presumed Guilty is not something to read when you want to be calm. But it’s something you should read if you want to know more about how things really work in America.