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Wildy’s Book News

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Vol 23 No 3 March/April 2018

Book of the Month

Cover of Scamell and Gasztowicz on Land Covenants

Scamell and Gasztowicz on Land Covenants

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A Common Purpose

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ISBN13: 9780826413307
ISBN: 0826413307
Published: November 2002
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.
Format: Hardback
Price: Out of print

It is the twenty-second year of Nelson Mandela's imprisonment and a country is gripped with civil unrest. A black policeman is beaten to death and his body burned during a riot. Twenty-five people are convicted of his murder; fourteen are sentenced to death. A small town is besieged by their legal trial, and one of the lawyers is brutally assassinated. This is the story of Upington Twenty-five men and women, from teenage boys to an elderly couple are all accused of the same crime: acting with a common purpose. Durbach and the other members of the legal team took the case after the death sentences had been handed down and had only a matter of weeks to sort through thousands of court papers, to get to know each of the defendants, referred to only by numbers in all court documents, and mount a proper appeal. Durbach recounts the specifics of the case, recreating trial testimony and judicial opinions, and giving the book the air of a charged courtroom drama. We meet each of the accused, hear their stories and follow the Herculean effort by this group of lawyers to save the lives of the accused-both innocent and guilty.;The details surrounding the case lead us to question our own prejudices and assumptions: the fact that al twenty-five were involved in the riot that led to the death of the policeman, does that make all twenty-five guilty? Those some of the accused confessed, are the others guilty by association and proximity? Where do we draw the line? As we are drawn into the ethical dilemmas posed for us, the realisation that Durbach sees only the injustice of 14 defendants being sentenced to death without receiving a proper trial requires us to examine our own consciences, and draw comparisons to our own legal system. Durbach's story pushes us to reflect on the very nature of the death sentence, until we must finally ask ourselves that if we are not outraged at the treatment these defendants received, why aren't we? Durbach's passionate dedication to saving their lives serves as an eloquent argument against the death penalty. Perhaps most remarkable is the way she demands justice for the accused without condemning or condoning the violence of the riots - Durbach simply tells their story.

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