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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Ideas

Where American criminal justice went wrong

Diagnosed with cancer, a Harvard law professor raced to issue a powerful final indictment

The book was written in a hurry. It had to be, because William Stuntz was dying, and the story he wanted to tell was long and complicated. It would be the Harvard Law School professor’s final major work, a sweeping indictment of the system he had been studying for 25 years.

Stuntz was 49 when he found out he had stage four colon cancer. For the remaining three years of his life, he worked on the book whenever he could: in his office at Harvard; at his family’s home in Belmont; even at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, where he would sit with his laptop in the infusion chair and type. Stuntz passed up pain medication so he could think more clearly. In the final days, after he entered hospice care, he had his assistant mail him a draft of his manuscript so he could go over any last minute changes.

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