An intriguing, informed examination of the justice system from a professional and personal perspective.

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ALMOST INNOCENT

FROM SEARCHING TO SAVED IN AMERICA'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

A lawyer’s memoir draws connections between her cases and her family’s involvement with the law.

Brien weaves together her personal story, including a somewhat dysfunctional childhood, marriage to an NFL player, and motherhood, with tales from her work as a criminal defense lawyer and the saga of her family’s involvement in a federal mortgage fraud case. Brien, whose work involves appeals by people already convicted of crimes, recounts the stories of clients whose actual guilt or innocence is less important than the fact that they have been ill-served by the justice system, facing bias, mandatory minimum sentencing, inadequate representation, and unsympathetic officials. Those stories are interspersed with Brien’s personal history. She was raised primarily by her White mother; her Muscogee father’s undiagnosed depression made him an unstable presence. After difficult teenage years, she attended Berkeley and Stanford universities. She married a Berkeley classmate whose football career led to several cross-country moves—and the experience of seeing her husband under investigation following a business associate’s fraudulent activities. Brien finds parallels between her clients’ experiences and her own, drawing lessons from them while remaining aware of the privilege that makes her family’s encounter with the law a very different experience. Brien, a strong writer, is particularly skilled at explaining the procedural minutiae that form the basis of her work without overwhelming the reader with legalese. She also excels at revealing her clients’ humanity as she shares their stories. She is remarkably open in describing her relationship with her “hippie football-playing feminist frat guy” husband and the challenges they faced balancing their careers while raising small children. Brien ably explains how she maintains a fundamental belief in the legal system while directly confronting its many shortcomings, appreciating each of the rare wins she accomplishes on behalf of a client. The result is a compelling, thought-provoking work that shies away from easy answers to questions of right and wrong or guilt and innocence.

An intriguing, informed examination of the justice system from a professional and personal perspective.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64543-203-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Amplify Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

THE DEFENSE LAWYER

THE BARRY SLOTNICK STORY

The Patterson publishing machine clanks its way into the nonfiction aisles in this lumbering courtroom drama.

Barry Slotnick made a considerable fortune and reputation as a defense attorney who had a long list of controversial clients, including mob boss John Gotti and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. An “urbane lawyer known for his twenty-five-hundred-dollar Fioravanti suits, he was not unacquainted with violence,” write Patterson and Wallace. One of his early cases, indeed, involved a group of Jewish Defense League members who allegedly blew up a Broadway producer’s office, killing a woman who worked there. Slotnick’s defense was a standard confuse-the-jury ploy, but it worked. He put similar tactics to work in his defense of Bernhard Goetz, the “subway shooter” whose trial made international news. The authors open after that trial had concluded in yet another Slotnick win, and with a sensational incident: He was attacked by a masked man who beat him with a baseball bat. The evidence is sketchy, but it seems to place the attack in the hands of organized crime—perhaps even Gotti himself. No matter: Slotnick, “who saw himself as the foe of the all-powerful government” and “liberty’s last champion,” was soon back to representing clients including Radovan Karadžić, the murderous Bosnian Serb who was eventually imprisoned for having committed genocide; Dewi Sukarno, the widow of Indonesia’s similarly bloodstained president, “arrested for slashing the face of a fellow socialite with a broken champagne glass at a party in Aspen”; and Melania Trump, who had chosen Slotnick “to handle her prenup.” In the hands of a John Grisham, the story might have come to life, but while Patterson does a serviceable if cliché-ridden job of recounting Slotnick’s career, he fails to give readers much reason to admire the man.

For Patterson fans who can’t get enough.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49437-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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