Seemingly by design the American legal system encourages defense counsel to be as mendacious as possible… It’s an essential component of our adversarial system of justice, based on the theory that justice is best achieved not through a third-party investigation directed by an impartial judge but, instead, through vigorous disputation by interested parties: trial by verbal combat.

This quotation occurs in Chapter 23. It is an aside made by Krakauer in the midst of his retelling of Jordan Johnson’s rape trial. The quotation is important because it highlights the difference between the university adjudication process (a university’s way of determining the guilt or innocence of an accused person) and the adjudication process in American trial court. Krakauer implies that one reasons universities are better able to punish and expel rapists is because they conduct third party investigations directed by impartial judges. The combative way of arguing cases in court, where defense lawyers are expected to lie in order to protect their clients, is often extremely brutal for rape victims. Defense attorneys slander victims, expose intimate details of their private lives, and crudely and incorrectly portray and re-enact their rapes. Here, Krakauer questions whether there might be a better and more humane way to conduct rape trials, a way of assessing guilt that doesn’t harm the innocent.