22 February 2007

Book rating scale:
5: Touched by God - a work which makes Shakespeare look infantile
4: Amazing - Instantly began rereading it and quoting it to friends
3: Worth Every Penny - a solid, interesting read, inspiring some thought and discussion with people who share similar interests
2: I Paid For It So I Finished Reading It - Some interesting parts but if I lose the book I'm not buying another copy
1: Couldn't Force My Way Thru and Burnt the Book in order to send it to the Hell it deserves
I rate "Relentless Pursuit", a book by Kevin Flynn about a murder case he prosecuted as a 3.5.

I think that whoever chose the title and tagline ("A True Story of Family, Murder, and the Prosecutor Who Wouldn't Quit") did a disservice to it. I came to the book expecting an extremely difficult case with little evidence, an incredibly evil villian, and a trial of epic proportions throughout which Mr. Flynn had to fight past setback after setback to win. Instead it was a case with solid evidence, an incredibly evil defendant who commited two gruesome murders, and a fairly typical trial which only had one point where the prosecution could have sufferred a major setback.

I was looking for a book with a 100 page setup and a 250 blow-by-blow of the trial. Instead, there was 250 pages of setup and extra-courtroom stuff and about 100 pages about the trial. I suspect this was because the trial really wasn't all that difficult. The evidence which was found the first night was damning and the outcome of the trial - barring some major hiccup - was going to be two murder convictions.

At this point, let me say that a layperson may get more out of the setup than I do. I've seen extended families show up for trial (and BTW, this isn't solely a "Black thing", I've seen White families show up en masse as well). I've seen the religion which people find comfort in while in the courthouse, but don't seem to allow to inform there lives on the street. I've seen any number of things checked out by investigators turn out to be dead ends and therefore not really be relevant to the case. The emotional hooks and background information might grab and inform people not used to this sort of thing more than it did me. I was chomping at the bit for the trial (after all, the book is supposed to be about the prosecutor - I wanted to see the prosecution).

An then, in one blinding flash, I was hooked. On page 220 the judge hijacks the case. It's a pretrial hearing to determine which of the defendant's statements should be admitted pursuant to a boilerplate Miranda warnings motion. Suddenly, the judge starts talking about excluding the most important physical evidence in the trial. She's clearly leaning toward throwing the evidence out; she's also just as clearly wrong in her understanding of constitutional case law. It's a classic moment and every crimlaw attorney in the world has been there. We watch as Mr. Flynn scrambles and even goes so far as to call an appellate court expert for advice before he goes back in to argue against the judge and the defense attorney. But then it all passes when the judge rules for the prosecution. Mr. Flynn offers a sciological possibility for the judge's ruling; personally, I think she probably went back and looked up the law (or had a clerk do it), realized she was wrong, and was honest about her mistake.

From this point on the trial plods forward to it's inevitable conclusion. Some of the things which happen are so very typical. A witness shows up dressed inappropriately, the defendant is dumb enough to get on the stand and he testifies in a way that helps to bury him. The jury semi-hangs, but it's sent back to the jury room to deliberate further (without even a dynamite charge).

The book is interesting, although I think Mr. Flynn could have used an editor who was more ruthless in cutting and compacting the story. I reccomend it more for the layperson but think that anyone not used to dealing with the realities of life and crime in a city would find it an interesting read.

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