Courts: The Empty Room

In the days when defense lawyers spouted Scripture and wept real tears, Americans had the time of their lives at public trials. "People came for miles to hear those closing arguments," recalls a nostalgic Georgia judge. "It was almost like a Shakespearean festival." Today, sensational murder trials still draw S.R.O. audiences. But at a time when everyone frets over rising crime, hardly anyone attends the normal felony trial, to say nothing of misdemeanors. From where he sits in Texas, a state that once loved litigation even more than football, San Antonio's Criminal Court Judge Archie Brown flatly says: "The empty...

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