Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Criminal Law | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections | Public Law and Legal Theory


Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought


Center on Global Governance


How could the New York Times call the grand jury’s decision to no bill the indictment against officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a “verdict”? How could federal appellate judges call it a “procedural shortcut” when a state judge, in a death penalty case, signs the state attorney general’s proposed judicial opinion without even striking the word “proposed” or reviewing the full opinion? What do these incidents tell us about contemporary criminal justice? These essays explore these puzzles. The first, “Verdict and Illusion,” begins to sketch the role of illusions in justice. The second, “A Singe Voice of Justice,” interprets these procedural shortcuts through the lens of Homeric, agonistic combat. The third, “Reading Penal Theories and Institutions,” offers a first reading of the newly published Foucault lectures on punishment practices, theories and institutions, delivered at the Collège de France in 1971-1972. (A French version of the latter essay is included as well).