Snyder, Leslie Crocker 1942-
SNYDER, Leslie Crocker 1942-
PERSONAL: Born March 8, 1942, in New York, NY; daughter of Lester (a professor) and Billie (a homemaker) Crocker; married Fred Snyder (an attorney and artist), 1968. Education: Radcliffe College, A.B. (with honors), 1962; Harvard Business School, certificate, 1963; Case Western Reserve Law School, J.D. (with honors), 1966, associate editor of law review.
CAREER: Judge. Admitted to the Bar of New York State, 1966; Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hayes & Handler (law firm), New York, NY, associate, 1966-68; Manhattan district attorney's office, assistant district attorney, 1968-76, founder and chief of Sex Crimes Prosecution Bureau; General Chief of Trials, New York State Office of the Special Prosecutor, assistant attorney, 1976-79; in private practice, 1979-82; City of New York, deputy criminal justice coordinator and arson strike force coordinator, 1982-83, criminal court judge, 1983-86; New York State Supreme Court, First Judicial District, acting justice, 1986—. Served on various advisory boards and committees; lecturer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Women of Achievement award, Mademoiselle, 1974.
(With Tom Schachtman) Twenty-five to Life: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Leslie Crocker Snyder became the first female assistant district attorney in New York City's Homicide Bureau and the first female attorney in that city to try felonies. After hearing her first rape case, she was determined to make rape laws fairer to women, and in 1974, she established the first sex crimes division in the nation within the Manhattan district attorney's office. As a state Supreme Court judge, Snyder hears cases involving the most heinous crimes and is known for her tough sentencing, particularly of drug dealers. She shares her history with the criminal justice system in her memoir Twenty-five to Life: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth.
Snyder is the daughter of a professor of eighteenth-century French philosophy, born in New York City but raised on university campuses, including those of the University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins, and the Sorbonne. She entered Radcliffe College at the age of sixteen on a full scholarship and graduated with honors. She spent a year at Harvard Business School, then enrolled in Case Western Reserve Law School, where she continued her education. In 1966, with her law degree in hand, she applied to New York City firms, and because her first name is gender-neutral, she was granted interviews that would lead to nothing when it was discovered that she was female.
Snyder joined the Manhattan district attorney's office in 1968, where District Attorney Frank Hogan, who was ruffled by the fact that Snyder was not married, suggested that she concentrate on consumer fraud cases. Hogan finally caved and assigned Snyder to homicide. In 1970 Snyder tried a robbery case in which two women had been raped. At that time, the law required that three things be proven before rape could be established: force, identity, and penetration. Snyder could prove the first two, but not the third, because the women's testimonies and the fact that semen had been found on their underwear were both inadmissible.
Outraged, Snyder worked to change the law, and did. She is also responsible for New York's rape-shield law, which disallows a victim's sexual history in a rape case. Nina Burleigh noted in a New York article that Snyder "has a classic seventies feminist's sympathy for the women she sees before her and freely admits to giving women involved in drug cases more lenient sentences, on the grounds that their macho boyfriends, brothers, and fathers have probably abused them. 'I know I have had the reputation of being profemale,' she says. 'Certainly there are some queenpins, but a lot of these women are victims.'"
In 1976 Snyder left the district attorney's office to work on a special task force investigating police corruption. From 1979 to 1983 she returned to private practice. She reentered public service, first as a judge in criminal court, and then in 1986 for a ten-year term on the New York State Supreme Court. She was first appointed by Mayor Ed Koch and was reappointed in 1996 by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. She took her place on the bench as the crack cocaine epidemic and its associated crime hit the streets.
Burleigh commented that Snyder "made some controversial law in the areas of search and seizure; one of her rulings, for example, denied defendants the names of the informants in certain search warrants if the informants have reason to fear for their safety. But that tightly reasoned ruling was upheld and is now precedent in New York. In a less clear-cut case, Snyder is now embroiled in a seven-year legal battle over her use of what's called a shadow counsel—a second attorney assigned secretly to a defendant who wants to cooperate with the government but doesn't want the original attorney to know." The shadow attorney is most often used in trials where the defendant's attorney is being paid for by organized crime, in cases where information transmitted back to the mob could endanger the defendant's family.
Snyder was interviewed for BookPage online by Edward Morris, who asked if it had been difficult for her to hand down her typically long sentences. She replied that "most of the cases in which I've given out these high sentences were for people who had been involved in multiple murders or murder and rape or multiple sex crimes, or they were the heads of drug gangs who'd delegated other people to kill or torture. So as the cases became more and more serious, it did become easier to hand out time of that kind."
The judge's tough stance and maximum sentences have resulted in threats to her life, beginning in 1988, when she was told that a drug lord had put out a hit on her. Since then, she has had around-the-clock police protection. Snyder and her husband never discuss their family, and the children, now grown, were also guarded while attending high school. The threats continue, but Snyder takes them in stride.
Bookreporter.com contributor Curtis Edmonds wrote that Twenty-five to Life "appropriately shows the dangers and the glories of a life on the bench in the riskiest of situations. It should remind all of us that our safety is largely due to the hard, unacknowledged work of the police and attorneys and judges who work in the criminal justice system, and that we owe them a debt of honor that we cannot easily repay."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Snyder, Leslie Crocker, and Tom Schachtman, Twenty-five to Life: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Twenty-five to Life: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth, p. 186.
Library Journal, September 1, 2002, Harry Charles, review of Twenty-five to Life, p. 195.
New York, March 30, 1998, Nina Burleigh, "Court of Appeal," p. 34.
New York Times, December 20, 2000, Katherine E. Finkelstein, "Hard-Liner in Pearls and Basic Black Robe," p. B2.
People, October 7, 2002, Patrick Rogers, "Tough Justice," p. 129.
Publishers Weekly, July 29, 2002, review of Twenty-five to Life, p. 63.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (December 12, 2002), Edward Morris, "The Judge Takes the Stand" (interview).
Bookreporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (December 12, 2002), Curtis Edmonds, review of Twenty-five to Life.*