cover image Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy

Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy

Dan Abrams and David Fisher. Hanover Square, $25.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-335-01644-7

Abrams, chief of legal affairs for ABC News, and Fisher follow up Lincoln’s Last Trial with another intriguing presidential courtroom procedural. This one is centered on a highly public 1914 libel claim brought by a New York state politician, William Barnes, against former president Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt had written that Barnes, a key player in the New York Republican machine, was corrupt and that his actions “deeply taint and discredit our whole government system.” Working with the transcript of the case, Abrams and Fisher dissect the legal maneuvering from jury selection to direct and cross-examination of the parties, witnesses called, judicial rulings, closing arguments, and the jury verdict. They provide insightful commentary on how the opposing lawyers, William Ivins for Barnes and John Bowers for Roosevelt, employed sophisticated courtroom strategies, tricks, and diversions, smartly deconstructing Ivins’s strategy of offering constant objections to Bowers’s examination of Roosevelt and Bowers’s skillful cross-examination of Barnes, which undercut small parts of earlier testimony. Many of the questions the trial raised about the effects of money in politics, the dangers of blind allegiance to party politics, and oversize corporate political influence will resonate with contemporary readers. Legal eagles and history buffs will enjoy this one. Agent: Frank Weimann, Folio. (May)