Book review of "After the blood bath: Is healing possible in the wake of rampage shooting?"

Author: Dr.Debarati Halder [1]

After the blood bath: Is healing possible in the wake of rampage shooting?   Authored by James .D. Diamon, (2020) Michigan State University Press. East Lansing. pp162. ISBN 978 161 1 863314162 . Paper back

The year 2012 saw a most gruesome killing in the US. A youth opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 where 26 people including 20 children (some of them as young as 6 or 7 years of age) died. In subsequent years many more mass shootings happened, including in a high school in Parkland, Florida, in a church in Texas and in many other places such as a gay night club and shopping mall. Some of the perpetrators were juvenile offenders, some were as old as 65 years. Some of them were taken into custody, went through police interrogation, trials at criminal courts, others committed suicide. There were several discussions on why such mass shootings happened, why the perpetrators targeted their victims and why they chose the specific places to carry out their attacks. However, there was less  discussion around the impact upon the victims and their families. The court procedures involved may have appeared to focus upon the punishment and/or rehabilitation of the offenders. However, at the same time, such proceedings can be tremendously traumatising for the survivors and victims, as well as the families of the dead victims. But can the victim really get compensated? Can the feelings of anger, revenge, disgust and depression be acknowledged and dealt with by the sentencing of the court? Overall, can the families of victims and offenders ever come together to start for a new peaceful journey?  The book "After the blood bath: Is healing possible in the wake of rampage shooting?" by James .D. Diamond discusses just these issues.

Diamond divides the discussion into two segments: mass shooting by perpetrators from non-indigenous groups and perpetrators from indigenous groups. He starts the book with heart wrenching case studies of rampage shootings, but his case studies go beyond narrating the shooting incidents.  He discusses how victims felt during the investigation period, and what their feelings and expectations were in the court rooms and when the sentences were passed. On one side, he shows how some non-indigenous perpetrators were nonchalant towards the victims who passed them in wheelchairs, desperately wanting the accused to look at them and feel for what they had done to them. On the other side, he beautifully portrayed the scenes when fathers and mothers of some of the indigenous perpetrators extended their support to the victims. Being from the legal fraternity himself, Diamond could access the courts and watch the court room trials and the victims and defendants' reactions. He has successfully shown in this book how several Indian tribes extend their solidarity to the perpetrators families who may have been shocked, distressed and traumatised for the deeds of their children, spouses, tribespeople.  The book describes the failure of the Anglo-European criminal justice model in the relation to violent crimes, including mass shooting cases. In chapter 5, Diamond discusses restorative justice in indigenous cultures. In the subsequent chapters he discusses forgiveness, restorative justice generally and therapeutic jurisprudence. In these chapters, he elaborately discusses the traditional Navajo method of resolving violent crimes including homicides. Diamond has also mentioned that some of these indigenous methods of conflict resolution would also include the killing of the offender by his own tribespeople to prevent escalation of a revenge-taking mentality in the minds of victims.

Diamond's key premise is that, although the Anglo- European criminal justice system has influenced the modern criminal justice systems of many countries in the world, in most cases, victim justice delivery had not been satisfactory. Diamond emphasises this with the help of comparative case studies from the Anglo-European criminal justice system perspective and from the perspectives of indigenous methods of conflict resolution, including restorative justice, forgiveness and healing. In the Anglo-European model, perpetrators are given advice by defence lawyers to keep silent or to deny charges or to go ahead for plea bargaining, which enhances the victims' traumatisation. In indigenous cultures, the family members of the perpetrators would be joining the restorative circle, healing process and indigenous restorative justice process, because the indigenous circle considers the perpetrator and, in certain cases, the victims as their own people whose conflicts must be settled in a way whereby both the parties are satisfied. It is argued that this reduces the trauma experienced by the family members of the perpetrator and the victims. Diamond also shows how religion plays an important role in such healing and forgiving. He refers to the role of the Christian and Islamic religions in inculcating the feelings for forgiveness, although the significance of Hinduism must also not be ignored.

This book shows that, with an increased understanding of Therapeutic Jurisprudence, some judges who have been traditionally trained in the Anglo European criminal justice system have been changing their approach to delivering justice to adhere to the concept of problem-solving courts. Diamond emphasizes that these changes will have a beneficial impact by promoting amicable and peaceful conflict resolution for the benefit of the victims as well as the perpetrators. However, he also clearly emphasises the fact that it is not only the courts who need to accept therapeutic jurisprudence as part of an approach focused upon restorative justice while dealing with such violent crimes, lawyers and law students must also be sensitised about such methods. This very discussion makes the book relatable to law teachers, researchers and students as well. 

The book is written in simple language. The arrangement of chapters, case studies and the discussions on the modern criminal justice system, as well as the significance of indigenous conflict resolving methods, make the book engaging and interesting. The page setup, citation method and appendices are both reader and student friendly. Overall, this book is a must-read for law students, faculties, practitioners, learners and researchers of criminal law, restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, criminology, victimology, penology, psychology and sociology. This book also has a potential application to practitioners and counsellors in relation to matrimonial disputes and interpersonal conflicts related to family and property issues.


[1] Dr.Debarati Halder, LL.B., M.L., Ph.D(Law)(NLSIU, Bangalore), is a Professor of Legal Studies in the Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University , Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She is the founder-Secretary of South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology and Head of India Chapter and board of Trustees, International Society of Therapeutic Jurisprudence. She can be reached