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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Review of Involuntary Witness

"Whole worlds pass by us and we don't notice." Guido Guerrieri is an Italian advocate just coming out of a rough patch of depression. His wife has left him and he's just been struggling along until he's assigned the case of an African immigrant accused of killing a young boy. Abdou Thiam, the client, absolutely refuses to settle in spite of overwhelming circumstantial evidence against him. So the case goes to trial. The trial has a surface appearance of fairness, but at its core there is a subtext of racism that reminds us of sham trials of blacks in the U.S. After all, all those "niggers" look the same, as one of the witnesses insists.   The trial revolves around the concept of involuntary falsehood., i.e. can a witness not lie, yet tell an untruth.  It's a concept that involves memory, false memory, manipulation of memory, and what how much of what we see is merely a confirmation of what we have already decided the truth to be. As the Chinese say, two-thirds of what we see is behind our eyes.

Those who dislike legal dramas heavy on courtroom settings will be disappointed. I love those kinds of scenes so this book really held my interest. 

Very interesting legal drama that reveals some of the similarities and differences between the American and Italian legal system. Clearly the pressure to settle and plead out a case is tremendous. The cost of a trial, the "discount" in the sentence available to those who plead, the time required; all conspire to encourage everyone, even the innocent, to "cop" a plea. 

I will certainly read/listen to more in the series. Very ably read as always by Sean Barrett.

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