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Publisher's Summary

Courtroom 302 is the fascinating story of one year in Chicago's Cook County Criminal Courthouse, the busiest felony courthouse in the country. Here we see the system through the eyes of the men and women who experience it, not only in the courtroom but in the lockup, the jury room, the judge's chambers, the spectators' gallery.
From the daily grind of the court to the highest-profile case of the year, Steve Bogira's masterful investigation raises fundamental issues of race, civil rights, and justice in America.
©2005 Steve Bogira (P)2017 Tantor
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Dave on 02-27-18

Fascinating Account of a Year in One Courtroom

I absolutely loved this audiobook, and it is still on my mind weeks after listening to it.
The author tells the simultaneous stories of the defendants, victims, lawyers, guards, families and the one particularly interesting judge who heard all of the cases assigned to Courtroom #302 at Chicago's notorious Cook County Courthouse in the course of a single typical year. But no crime or trial is typical to the people involved in it, and Courtroom 302 does a beautiful job of conveying that simple truth.

Like a wartime reporter embedded with a military unit in Iraq, the author is essentially embedded in this courtroom and given remarkable access to everyone who spends time in it during a single year. He follows the cases from the commission of the crime through the arrest, jailing, prosecution and aftermath, jumping from one participant's perspective to another to give a sort of 3D view of the whole process. It's Law and Order on steroids, taking that concept beyond just police and lawyers to include everyone touched in some way by the event. The details of the various crimes and their impact on all of the different people involved were obviously compelling, although not all of them were necessarily notorious or headline-grabbing.. But that's part of what made this such an unusually interesting book, because the stories were about everyday people whose lives converged with other everyday people in this one courtroom.

In fact, one of the most intriguing aspects of this account was the way it contrasted the life-changing urgency of appearing in Room 302 to the defendants and victims with the workaday normalcy of that very same place and time to the judge, lawyers and guards who make their living in that room. To some, it was the most important day of their lives. To the people who defended, prosecuted, guarded and judged them, it was just another day at work. Admittedly serious work, but work nevertheless. The author tells all of these stories with warmth, humanity and even some humor, but treats everyone involved with a reporter's eye for human detail and the seriousness with which we all view our own lives.

The narrator is excellent, and perfectly suited to the material. There's an unexpected cadence to his narration that you notice at first, but like most good narrators he drew me so fully and comfortably into the story that the narration itself practically disappeared. I quickly forgot I was being read to at all.

I received a free copy of this audiobook at my request in exchange for an unbiased review, and I was surprised that it turned out to be one of my favorite non-fiction reads this year. If you're looking for a very interesting true story that isn't like every other true crime book, this is a great choice. I can't recall listening to another book that is quite like it. If you're interested in how the law really works in real-life practice, this is also a great choice. For me, this one book about one year in one Chicago courtroom taught me more about the American legal system and it's flaws, brilliance, humanity and inhumanity than the 4 years of Pre-Law classes I took in college. And if you're just looking to spend a few hours with an engaging cast of real-life characters caught up in real-life dramas, this is a great choice yet again.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By KIDSFIRST81 on 02-14-18

A look into a broken court system

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, this is a very interesting book that makes you think about how our court system is run and how broken it really can be. We think it is "just and fair" but there are so many things as citizens who haven't experiences a court date never would imagine.

What other book might you compare Courtroom 302 to and why?

I personally haven't experienced another book that I could compare it to.

What does Mark Kamish bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The subject matter of the book can be rather dry so by listening to the audio you can get some emotion behind the words that you wouldn't have if you were just reading the book. This is especially true when you are reading something from an inmates/defendant's point of view.

Any additional comments?

This book points out many points of view - from a judge, inmate, lawyer, guard, etc. It shows where the system is falling down and points where we are doing okay. I personally liked hearing about real like trials that went on during the time the books was written and also about the people affected in the book. It was interesting to hear the back story of the people on trial and also the victims. It's interesting to also hear how much unnecessary info is presented at trial but how much info that should be presented is not. The whole criminal process was eye opening in this book.


I was provided this audiobook through Audiobook Boom at no charge by the publisher and have voluntarily left an unbiased review.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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