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Friday, May 02, 2014

TRIAL - A Legal Thriller by Clifford Irving

I found this book in a list of recommended courtroom dramas.   It's really good.

Warren Blackburn is trying to rehabilitate his law career after signing his name to an affidavit that contains information he knows is false.  He was trying to help someone get a lighter sentence, believing the man's sob story about needing to stay out of jail to help his kids. Turns out it was bullshit. Warren was lucky to get off with a year's suspension and and probation.

Now having to resort to scrounging up whatever cases the judges will throw at him to defend indigent clients, he stumbles on a capital case, which, on the surface appears to be a prosecutorial wet dream and should plead out quickly.  Problem is his client is innocent of the murder of the Vietnamese man who was killed in a fit of road rage.  We're given that up front.  He’s been seen committing the murder.  Of course, we all know about eyewitness testimony: “As for Siva Singh, Warren saw her as a sincere woman who believed in law and order and wanted to help the police. Eyewitnesses were always so sure of what they had seen. Once they had committed themselves to a story, they had a vested interest in keeping to it. Most eyewitnesses don’t have time to tell red from green or short from tall. They make it up later, without realizing it. Everyone seemed to know that except juries.”

And then Warren is offered second chair in a big murder case where the client is most certainly guilty.  Under pressure from the judge to settle this slam-dunk-for-the-prosecution case, Warren is soon faced with having to take over the big case when the lead attorney dies of a stroke.

The case involves the murder of her husband by a rich woman suspected of having been involved in several other murders. She's claiming self-defense, that her husband attacked her with a poker so she had to shoot him. But one evening during a practice session for the trial she reveals her hatred for Asians, and Warren happens to see some peculiar damage on the front of her car. Damage that could possibly link his two cases together and put him in a horribly awkward position.

Books that present characters with a real moral dilemma are always more interesting than those that don't. This book has a doozy.  The outcome is quite satisfactory.

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