LSAT Reading : Strengthen or Weaken Argument in Law Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) can help countries throughout the world have a more uniform way of navigating the challenging waters of international law surrounding trade. It is not uncommon for two countries to have adopted different laws on international trade that conflict with each other. This becomes a serious problem when trade disputes arise. To help make this concept more tangible, consider the following hypothetical.

Suppose China ships three million dollars' worth of electronics to Uganda using standard bulk shipping transportation methods via a commonly traveled sea route. However, the packaging isn't secured in a manner sufficient to withstand unforeseen weather conditions. As a result, the goods become damaged in transit and are no longer fit for resale. Given that two countries are involved in this transaction–China and Uganda–the question arises as to which country’s trade laws will apply to resolve the matter at hand.

In this scenario, it is fortunate that both China and Uganda are parties to the CISG, which provide for a uniform set of laws governing trade. Such laws cover which party would be responsible for the damaged goods in this scenario. As a result, there will be no dispute as to whether China’s or Uganda's trade laws apply. Given that both countries are parties to the CISG, the laws set forth by the CISG would be applicable.

However, not all countries are parties to the CISG. One example is Rwanda. Even though Rwanda is not a party to the CISG, the fact of the matter is that CISG laws can still apply to it. The CISG applies to trade between countries so long as one of those countries is a party to the CISG (unless the parties expressly specify that the CISG will not apply to their specific trade arrangement). Several of Rwanda's main trade partners, such as the United States, China, Belgium, and Uganda, are parties to the CISG, so the laws of the treaty will apply in those trade agreements. Meanwhile, there is a different story when it comes to Rwanda's trade agreements with Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Thailand, which are not parties to the CISG. Due to these countries’ lack of membership in the CISG, if a problem ever arose in a trade agreement between Rwanda and one those countries, it would be unclear as to which country’s laws would apply.

There has been heated discussion as to whether Rwanda should sign the CISG. The United Nations Development Program takes the stance that it would behoove Rwanda to join. Whether or not Rwanda decides to become a member, the CISG will still apply to a large portion of its trade agreements, as about 100 countries are in fact CISG members, with a strong portion of those members also being trade partners with Rwanda. On the flip side, some Rwandan politicians believe that valuable autonomy would be lost if Rwanda assented to the CISG. However, given the potential benefits that Rwanda stands to gain from the CISG, these fears do not merit forgoing such a valuable opportunity.

Which of the following, if true, best supports the author’s contention that Rwanda should become a member of the CISG?

Possible Answers:

Disputes over which country's laws to apply in commercial trade situations can chill future trade arrangements with other countries, even those which belong to the CISG. 

Even if a country is a CISG member, commercial trade disputes are just as likely to occur. 

Becoming a CISG member can sometimes delay the processing of trade agreements because additional protocols are set in place for members to follow. 

Status as a CISG member can deter non-CISG countries from engaging in trade arrangements. 

Participation fees for becoming a CISG member can hinder certain countries from joining. 

Correct answer:

Disputes over which country's laws to apply in commercial trade situations can chill future trade arrangements with other countries, even those which belong to the CISG. 

Explanation:

Given that the purpose of CISG is to reduce disputes over trade between countries, the correct answer is, "Disputes over which country's laws to apply in commercial trade situations can chill future trade arrangements with other countries, even those which belong to the CISG." This is the correct answer because the inference can be made that if the CISG is reducing disputes between countries, and that there is a weaker chance of future trade arrangements being chilled. 

Example Question #2 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

Adapted from The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1881)

If it were necessary to trench further upon the field of morals, it might be suggested that the dogma of equality applied even to individuals only within the limits of ordinary dealings in the common run of affairs. You cannot argue with your neighbor, except on the admission for the moment that he is as wise as you, although you may by no means believe it. In the same way, you cannot deal with him, where both are free to choose, except on the footing of equal treatment, and the same rules for both. The ever-growing value set upon peace and the social relations tends to give the law of social being the appearance of the law of all being. But it seems to me clear that the ultima ratio, not only regum, but of private persons, is force, and that at the bottom of all private relations, however tempered by sympathy and all the social feelings, is a justifiable self-preference. If a man is on a plank in the deep sea that will only float one, and a stranger lays hold of it, he will thrust him off if he can. When the state finds itself in a similar position, it does the same thing.

The considerations that answer the argument of equal rights also answer the objections to treating man as a thing, and the like. If a man lives in society, he is liable to find himself so treated. The degree of civilization which a people has reached, no doubt, is marked by their anxiety to do as they would be done by. It may be the destiny of humanity that the social instincts shall grow to control our actions absolutely, even in anti-social situations. But they have not yet done so, and as the rules of law are or should be based upon a morality that is generally accepted, no rule founded on a theory of absolute unselfishness can be laid down without a breach between law and working beliefs.

If it be true, as I shall presently try to show, that the general principles of criminal and civil liability are the same, it will follow from that alone that theory and fact agree in frequently punishing those who have been guilty of no moral wrong, and who could not be condemned by any standard that did not avowedly disregard the personal peculiarities of the individuals concerned. If punishment stood on the moral grounds that are proposed for it, the first thing to be considered would be those limitations in the capacity for choosing rightly that arise from abnormal instincts, want of education, lack of intelligence, and all the other defects which are most marked in the criminal classes. I do not say that they should not be, or at least I do not need to for my argument. I do not say that the criminal law does more good than harm. I only say that it is not enacted or administered on that theory.

Which of the following, if added as a new piece of evidence, would weaken the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

Criminals frequently find productive roles in society after standard punishments.

Criminals are rarely seen as normal members of society.

Criminals typically are viewed as enemies of the state.

Criminals are not willing to follow society's practices due to feeling like outcasts.

Criminals do not fit in well to society after their punishment.

Correct answer:

Criminals frequently find productive roles in society after standard punishments.

Explanation:

The author's main argument is that criminal law is structured poorly and is thought of incorrectly by most of society. This means that any argument that shows that criminal law productively and effectively helps criminals adjust to society would weaken the author's argument.

Example Question #3 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

Adapted from the Opinion of the Court by Chief Justice Morrison Waite in the United States Supreme Court Case Reynolds v. U.S. 98 U.S. 145 (1878)

The word "religion" is not defined in the Constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning, and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted. The precise point of the inquiry is what is the religious freedom which has been guaranteed.

Before the adoption of the Constitution, attempts were made in some of the colonies and states to legislate not only in respect to the establishment of religion, but in respect to its doctrines and precepts as well. The people were taxed, against their will, for the support of religion, and sometimes for the support of particular sects to whose tenets they could not and did not subscribe. Punishments were prescribed for a failure to attend upon public worship, and sometimes for entertaining [98 U.S. 145, 163] heretical opinions. The controversy upon this general subject was animated in many of the states, but seemed at last to culminate in Virginia. In 1784, the House of Delegates of that State having under consideration “a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion” postponed it until the next session, and directed that the bill should be published and distributed, and that the people be requested “to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of such a bill at the next session of assembly.”

This brought out a determined opposition. Amongst others, Mr. Madison prepared a "Memorial and Remonstrance," which was widely circulated and signed, and in which he demonstrated "that religion, or the duty we owe the Creator," was not within the cognizance of civil government. [Semple's Virginia Baptists, Appendix.] At the next session the proposed bill was not only defeated, but another, "for establishing religious freedom," drafted by Mr. Jefferson, was passed. [1 Jeff. Works, 45; 2 Howison, Hist. of Va. 298.] In the preamble of this act (12 Hening's Stat. 84) religious freedom is defined; and after a recital "that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty," it is declared "that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order." In these two sentences is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the state.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most seriously weaken the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

The only governments which did not fail were ones that were deeply intertwined with religious leaders and precepts.

Fines levied by governments on individuals who did not attend public worship have been significant sources of revenue for governments.

Punishing people for having heretical beliefs has typically led to civil unrest throughout history.

Laws prosecuting people for their religious beliefs are not problematic, as they only effect a small amount of people.

Thomas Jefferson was not well regarded by the religious leaders of his own time.

Correct answer:

The only governments which did not fail were ones that were deeply intertwined with religious leaders and precepts.

Explanation:

The author's main argument is that government should not harm religious believers, but also that religion has no place in government decision-making. Assuming all the choices are true, the idea that would most harm the author's argument is one that shows such an arrangement is not feasible. Thus, the statement that governments that did not become deeply tied to religion often failed would most weaken his argument.

Example Question #4 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

Adapted from Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone (1765-1769)

Municipal law, thus understood, is properly defined to be "a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in a state, commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong." Let us endeavor to explain its several properties as they arise out of this definition.

And, first, it is a rule; not a transient sudden order from a superior to or concerning a particular person; but something permanent, uniform, and universal. Therefore, a particular act of the legislature to confiscate the goods of Titius or to attaint him of high treason does not enter into the idea of a municipal law: for the operation of this act is spent upon Titius only and has no relation to the community in general. But an act to declare that the crime of which Titius is accused shall be deemed high treason; this has permanency, uniformity, and universality, and therefore is properly a rule. It is also called a rule to distinguish it from advice or counsel, which we are at liberty to follow or not, as we see proper, and to judge upon the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the thing advised. Whereas our obedience to the law depends not upon our approbation, but upon the maker's will. Counsel is only matter of persuasion, law is matter of injunction; counsel acts only upon the willing, law upon the unwilling also.

It is also called a rule to distinguish it from a compact or agreement; for a compact is a promise proceeding from us, and law is a command directed to us. The language of a compact is, "I will, or will not, do this”; that of a law is, "Thou shalt, or shalt not, do it." It is true there is an obligation that a compact carries with it, equal in point of conscience to that of a law; but then the original of the obligation is different. In compacts, we ourselves determine and promise what shall be done, before we are obliged to do it; in laws, we are obliged to act, without ourselves determining or promising any thing at all. Upon these accounts law is defined to be "a rule."

It is likewise "a rule prescribed,” because a bare resolution, confined in the breast of the legislator, without manifesting itself by some external sign, can never be properly a law. It is requisite that this resolution be notified to the people who are to obey it. But the manner in which this notification is to be made is matter of very great indifference. It may be notified by universal tradition and long practice, which supposes a previous publication, and is the case of the common law of England. It may be notified, viva voce, by officers appointed for that purpose, as is done with regard to proclamations, and such acts of parliament as are appointed to be publicly read in churches and other assemblies. It may lastly be notified by writing, printing, or the like; which is the general course taken with all our acts of parliament.

Yet, whatever way is made use of, it is incumbent on the promulgators to do it in the most public and perspicuous manner; not like Caligula, who wrote his laws in a very small character, and hung them up upon high pillars, the more effectually to ensnare the people. There is still a more unreasonable method than this, which is called making of laws ex post facto; when after an action is committed, the legislator then for the first time declares it to have been a crime, and inflicts a punishment upon the person who has committed it. Here it is impossible that the party could foresee that an action, innocent when it was done, should be afterwards converted to guilt by a subsequent law; he had therefore no cause to abstain from it, and all punishment for not abstaining must of consequence be cruel and unjust. But when this rule is in the usual manner notified, or prescribed, it is then the subject's business to be thoroughly acquainted therewith; for if ignorance, of what he might know, were admitted as a legitimate excuse, the laws would be of no effect, but might always be eluded with impunity.

Which of the following would most WEAKEN the author's assertions regarding the nature of law?

Possible Answers:

New technologies used to communicate legislative acts in novel ways

Laws specifying the mode and form in which new laws were to be promulgated

Developments in political theory and practice in which the governed and the governors became one and the same

The passing of a law to ban future recurrence of some particular previous act that had once been legal

Historians of law showing that the particular origins of most of what is considered part of common law is obscure, lost to history, and may not have been properly promulgated according to modern standards

Correct answer:

Developments in political theory and practice in which the governed and the governors became one and the same

Explanation:

A point that would weaken the author's point would be one that would undermine one of the necessary conditions he outlines. While all of the noncredited responses fit with the author's points about the necessary conditions of law—or, at the very least, do not contradict them—a legal theory that identified the governors with the governed would reduce law to a compact or social contract, rather than an edict from a superior to an inferior. In this case, the lawgiver would not be superior to those governed, nor the one obligated to follow the laws inferior to the one issuing them; thus, the necessary condition that a legal rule be issued by a superior and obliged by an inferior would collapse.

Example Question #5 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

Adapted from Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130 (1878)

Cruel and unusual punishments are forbidden by the Constitution, but the authorities referred to are quite sufficient to show that the punishment of shooting as a mode of executing the death penalty for the crime of murder in the first degree is not included in that category, within the meaning of the eighth amendment. Soldiers convicted of desertion or other capital military offences are in the great majority of cases sentenced to be shot, and the ceremony for such occasions is given in great fullness by the writers upon the subject of courts-martial.

Where the conviction is in the civil tribunals, the rule of the common law was that the sentence or judgment must be pronounced or rendered by the court in which the prisoner was tried or finally condemned, and the rule was universal that it must be such as is annexed to the crime by law. Of these, says Blackstone, some are capital, which extend to the life of the offender, and consist generally in being hanged by the neck till dead.

Such is the general statement of that commentator, but he admits that in very atrocious crimes other circumstances of terror, pain, or disgrace were sometimes superadded. Cases mentioned by the author are where the prisoner was drawn or dragged to the place of execution, in treason; or where he was emboweled alive, beheaded, and quartered, in high treason. Mention is also made of public dissection in murder, and burning alive in treason committed by a female. History confirms the truth of these atrocities, but the commentator states that the humanity of the nation by tacit consent allowed the mitigation of such parts of those judgments as savored of torture or cruelty, and he states that they were seldom strictly carried into effect.

Difficulty would attend the effort to define with exactness the extent of the constitutional provision which provides that cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted; but it is safe to affirm that punishments of torture, such as those mentioned by the commentator referred to, and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty, are forbidden by that amendment to the Constitution.

Which of the following statements, if true, would do most to weaken the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

Blackstone's influence as a legal commentator is a highly contentious matter.

Torturous forms of punishment were used more frequently at different times in history.

The use of torture as punishment was historically well-supported by most populations.

Firing squads have historically been seen as extremely dangerous and unsuitable as execution methods.

The most extreme forms of punishments were only ever used in extremely sparing cases.

Correct answer:

Firing squads have historically been seen as extremely dangerous and unsuitable as execution methods.

Explanation:

The author's specific argument is that death by shooting is an appropriate form of punishment under the Constitution. His supporting evidence relies heavily on the examples of historical punishments which came to be seen as extralegal and dangerous. Thus, if death by shooting was in the same position as those punishments, his argument would not carry the same weight.

Example Question #6 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

"The Supreme Court" by William Floyd (2015)

Supreme Court decisions frame the understanding of law in America in a way no other body of writing has come close to approaching. While the Constitution and Acts of Congress are the actual law of the land, only through the interpretation, approval, and arguments of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court do these laws have a full meaning and power throughout the nation. Despite this place of prominence, the actual knowledge of Supreme Court decisions by most Americans is shockingly limited. The full depth and meaning of what the Supreme Court says is often elided for a popular opinion that remarkably distorts the ultimate meaning of the rulings of the highest court in the land.

Take the famous 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. Popularly, the case is known as the event which made abortion legal throughout the United States, becoming a flash point both for pro-abortion and anti-abortion activists in the four decades since the Court handed down the decision. In actuality, the court decided that there was an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which could not be violated by state or Federal laws that outlawed aborting a fetus, whether it targeted the woman seeking an abortion or the doctor performing the procedure. In essence, the court did not assert that abortion was legal, but rather that the state could not make abortion illegal. The practical difference might be quite small, but the legal difference is significant.

More importantly, the ruling was a 7-2 decision, which meant that along with the majority opinion which found a right to privacy, there were two dissents which emphatically did not find such a right. Justice Byron White famously wrote, “I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the court’s judgement.” While lower courts, legislators, and law enforcement officials had to comply with the majority opinion, a future Supreme Court decision can look to what Justice White argued and find that there is in fact no right to privacy inherent in the Fourteenth Amendment. This is the part of Supreme Court decisions that most confuses the general public. The majority decision holds as law, but all the opinions are part of the larger record and fabric of the Supreme Court. This means that the law of the land, when filtered through the arguments of the Supreme Court, can and will change depending on who is sitting in the nine chairs of the dais in the Supreme Court building.

Which of the following statements would most undermine the author's argument in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Justice Byron White is not a well-respected figure among legal scholars.

A survey shows most people do not have a strong opinion on the issue of abortion.

The Roe v. Wade decision is not representative of the structure and arguments of most Supreme Court decisions.

Most Supreme Court decisions do not cause the same amount of debate and controversy as the Roe v. Wade decision.

A poll of Americans shows that a majority can describe the Roe v. Wade decision with reasonable accuracy.

Correct answer:

A poll of Americans shows that a majority can describe the Roe v. Wade decision with reasonable accuracy.

Explanation:

The author's main argument is that Americans do not understand Supreme Court decisions, using Roe v. Wade as a representative example. Any claim that would weaken this argument has to go directly against this central point. The answer choice which best does this is "A poll of Americans shows that a majority can describe the Roe v. Wade decision with reasonable accuracy." If the standards of the poll were significantly nuanced, and the findings accurate, this poll would directly, unequivocally refute the passages primary evidence.

Example Question #7 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

Passage adapted from Courts and Criminals (1912) by Arthur Train.

But as the examination of the panel and the opening address come last in point of chronology it will be well to begin at the beginning and see what the labors of the prosecutor are in the initial stages of preparation. Let us take, for example, some notorious case, where an unfortunate victim has died from the effects of a poisoned pill or draught of medicine, or has been found dead in his room with a revolver bullet in his heart. Sometime before the matter has come into the hands of the prosecutor, the press and the police have generally been doing more or less (usually less) effective work upon the case. The yellow journals have evolved some theory of who is the culprit and have loosed their respective reporters and "special criminologists" upon him. Each has its own idea and its own methods—often unscrupulous. And each has its own particular victim upon whom it intends to fasten the blame. Heaven save his reputation! Many an innocent man has been ruined for life through the efforts of a newspaper "to make a case," and, of course, the same thing, though happily in a lesser degree, is true of the police and of some prosecutors as well.

In every great criminal case there are always four different and frequently antagonistic elements engaged in the work of detection and prosecution—first, the police; second, the district attorney; third, the press; and, lastly, the personal friends and family of the deceased or injured party. Each for its own ends—be it professional pride, personal glorification, hard cash, or revenge—is equally anxious to find the evidence and establish a case. Of course, the police are the first ones notified of the commission of a crime, but as it is now almost universally their duty to inform at once the coroner and also the district attorney thereof, a tripartite race for glory frequently results which adds nothing to the dignity of the administration of criminal justice.

The coroner is at best no more than an appendix to the legal anatomy, and frequently he is a disease. The spectacle of a medical man of small learning and less English trying to preside over a court of first instance is enough to make the accused himself chuckle for joy.

Not long ago the coroners of New York discovered that, owing to the fact that the district attorney or his representatives generally arrived first at the scene of any crime, there was nothing left for the "medicos" to do, for the district attorney would thereupon submit the matter at once to the grand jury instead of going through the formality of a hearing in the coroner's court. The legal medicine men felt aggrieved, and determined to be such early birds that no worm should escape them. Accordingly, the next time one of them was notified of a homicide he raced his horse down Madison Avenue at such speed that he collided with a trolley car and broke his leg.

Which of the following statements would most weaken the argument presented in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Prosecutors generally lead an investigation due to their mistrust of the police

A number of cases were solved through the efforts of medical examiners working diligently

The public largely does not have faith in the effectiveness of investigators in criminal trials

The prosecutors, police, and medical examiners do not appreciate the work done by the others

Criminal investigations frequently point the finger at an innocent person due to their haste

Correct answer:

A number of cases were solved through the efforts of medical examiners working diligently

Explanation:

The author argues that the ineptitude of the investigators causes many criminal investigations to be extremely flawed, in particular the efforts of the medical examiners. This idea would be greatly undermined by a series of cases in which justice was brought by the efforts of the medical examiners.

Example Question #8 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

"Lynch Law" by William Floyd (2015)

“Lynch Law” as it was known can appear as a peculiar feature of the past only. Never in the present day does a mob, carrying torches, clubs, and small firearms, descend upon a county jail to take from a cell an accused criminal who is supposed to have committed a crime so heinous and unspeakable that the crowd believes the only justice is to find the nearest sturdy tree to hang the accused from. This action, so common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly in the Southern portion of the United States, died out after World War II, with only a few isolated incidents, roundly disparaged, revealing the last gasp of the Lynch Law.

Perhaps the exact mechanisms of lynching culture do not exist, features of a bygone society, more rural, prejudiced, and violent than that which replaced it. Yet the attitudes have never left the consciousness of many Americans. On the chyrons of the nightly news and splashed across front pages of newspapers, accused criminals are only treated as such out of formality. In actuality, the tone of the reports reveals that the poor soul accused of a crime is assumed to be found guilty once the proper processes of the judicial system have run their course. Through a nod to a presumption of innocence and unwavering fidelity to the slow march of the courts, any sensible citizen can congratulate themselves that they are well beyond their ancestors, whether by blood or thought, who invoked the lynch law.

In actuality, a person can be arrested on the most base of suspicions, that they have the same vague hairstyle, shirt color, or peculiar mannerism of suspect’s description given by a witness. Then this poor soul will have to be questioned by any number of detectives, who look for the slightest pause, tic, or odd gaze. And heaven help him should he forget where he was for some small sliver of time. At that point, he is all but done for in front of the criminal justice system, being as he is with some apparent similarity to the description of the suspect, no alibi, and the accusations of police and prosecutors. While he is exceedingly lucky not to have to worry about being taken out of his cell and murdered underneath a large tree, he is still shunted forward to a removal from society after his placement in a labyrinthine prison system.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most weaken the argument presented in the passage?

Possible Answers:

A large number of men on death row continue to assert their innocence, even after all of their appeals are exhausted.

A recent study reports that an overwhelming majority of defendants convicted of serious crime received a fair trial, especially as compared to other defendants.

Prosecutors feel that many of the protections put in place for defendants are unnecessary and onerous.

A post-conviction review board has found a remarkable number of cases where the convicted person had poor legal counseling, a quick trial, and a biased jury.

The vast majority of Americans believe that the criminal justice system is too fair to convicted criminals.

Correct answer:

A recent study reports that an overwhelming majority of defendants convicted of serious crime received a fair trial, especially as compared to other defendants.

Explanation:

The author's argument is that there are still many biases in the modern criminal justice system, even if actual lynching is no longer practiced. The statement that weakens this argument the most must get to the heart of the issue, so that it can truly be undermined. The statement which best does this is "A recent study reports that an overwhelming majority of defendants convicted of serious crime received a fair trial, especially as compared to other defendants."

Example Question #9 : Strengthen Or Weaken Argument In Law Passages

"Lynch Law" by William Floyd (2015)

“Lynch Law” as it was known can appear as a peculiar feature of the past only. Never in the present day does a mob, carrying torches, clubs, and small firearms, descend upon a county jail to take from a cell an accused criminal who is supposed to have committed a crime so heinous and unspeakable that the crowd believes the only justice is to find the nearest sturdy tree to hang the accused from. This action, so common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly in the Southern portion of the United States, died out after World War II, with only a few isolated incidents, roundly disparaged, revealing the last gasp of the Lynch Law.

Perhaps the exact mechanisms of lynching culture do not exist, features of a bygone society, more rural, prejudiced, and violent than that which replaced it. Yet the attitudes have never left the consciousness of many Americans. On the chyrons of the nightly news and splashed across front pages of newspapers, accused criminals are only treated as such out of formality. In actuality, the tone of the reports reveals that the poor soul accused of a crime is assumed to be found guilty once the proper processes of the judicial system have run their course. Through a nod to a presumption of innocence and unwavering fidelity to the slow march of the courts, any sensible citizen can congratulate themselves that they are well beyond their ancestors, whether by blood or thought, who invoked the lynch law.

In actuality, a person can be arrested on the most base of suspicions, that they have the same vague hairstyle, shirt color, or peculiar mannerism of suspect’s description given by a witness. Then this poor soul will have to be questioned by any number of detectives, who look for the slightest pause, tic, or odd gaze. And heaven help him should he forget where he was for some small sliver of time. At that point, he is all but done for in front of the criminal justice system, being as he is with some apparent similarity to the description of the suspect, no alibi, and the accusations of police and prosecutors. While he is exceedingly lucky not to have to worry about being taken out of his cell and murdered underneath a large tree, he is still shunted forward to a removal from society after his placement in a labyrinthine prison system.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most strengthen the argument presented in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Many jurors report feeling that the evidence in a criminal trial was presented in an extremely thorough and fair manner.

Criminal juries are selected with a lengthy process designed to avoid all hints of bias.

Most Americans believe that the criminal justice system is much fairer than it had been in past decades.

Convicted criminals report a high degree of satisfaction with their lawyers during trial.

A review of criminal cases shows that many juries assume the defendant is guilty if he or she has been accused of the crime.

Correct answer:

A review of criminal cases shows that many juries assume the defendant is guilty if he or she has been accused of the crime.

Explanation:

The author's argument hinges on the idea that many of the biases that caused lynchings are still present in the modern criminal justice system. Any study that demonstrates jurors already have a bias against defendants going into the trial would demonstrate that an exact bias, the presumption of guilt, is still present in modern times.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: