Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

The wisdom of Erle Stanley Gardner

by Rob - July 28th, 2022.
Filed under: Reviews, Uncategorized.

The wisdom of Erle Stanley Gardner, from the Perry Mason novel The Case of the Careless Kitten, published eighty years ago in 1942. Defense attorney Perry Mason is speaking to Hamilton Burger, the district attorney:

“Because the public has sat idly by and let the organized prosecutors amend the law until the constitutional guarantees of the public were swept away. We’re living in a period of changing times. It’s quite possible that the definition of crime will be broadened to include things which we might at present list in the category of political crimes. When the ordinary citizen is dragged into court, he’ll find that the cards have been stacked against him. Ostensibly, they were stacked against the professional criminal by organized public servants, but actually they’ve been stacked against Mr. and Mrs. Ordinary Citizen, because the whole legal procedure has been completely undermined.

“It’s high time for citizens to wake up to the fact that it isn’t a question of whether a man is guilty or innocent, but whether his guilt or innocence can be proved under a procedure which leaves in the citizen the legal rights to which he is entitled under a constitutional government.

“You object to spectacular, dramatic methods of defense. You overlook the fact that for the past twenty-five years you have beguiled the public into releasing its constitutional rights so that the only effective methods of defense which are left are the spectacular and the dramatic. Now then, Mr. District Attorney, you go ahead and arrest Della Street, and we’ll thrash this thing out in a courtroom.”

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1 Response to The wisdom of Erle Stanley Gardner

  1. Great quote. So appropriate for the past decade or, for we elder guardians of the facts – not Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” – perhaps the entropy of the legal system began the moment it was codified.

    Apparently Gardner didn’t physically write his books. He had a staff of stenographers who would come in and he would dictate to them. The story goes that he could be dictating multiple stories concurrently but knew exactly where he was in each story line so when the stenographers “swapped out” he could immediately switch to the other story line and pick up where he’d left off without missing a beat. Apocryphal? It’s harmless if I believe it’s true – so I will believe it.

    John Beamish

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