IN AMERICA'S COURT: How a Civil Lawyer Who Likes to Settle Stumbled into a Criminal Trial

Thomas Geoghegan, Author . New Press $23.95 (206p) ISBN 978-1-56584-732-3

Geoghegan, a civil litigator specializing in employment cases, wangled an invitation from a public defender to help represent a young man named Rolando, accused of felony murder. About half of the resulting book tells the story of Rolando's trial. The accused was 15 years old when he took part in the robbery of a bar in which a bar patron was shot to death. His first trial resulted in a conviction that was later reversed on appeal. Now, seven years later and with Geoghegan assisting in the defense, the retrial begins. The author captures the bewilderment of a neophyte caught up in the arcane rituals of criminal procedure, from the obscure instincts guiding jury selection, to sweating out the jury's deliberations, to the exhilaration of the ultimate acquittal. Blended in with the author's account of the trial are a score or so of short riffs on politics and law. One of Geoghegan's persistent themes is the upsurge in inequality he sees in American society and in the law, illustrated by the nation's insistence on imposing adult penalties on child offenders. The author considers why a recent college graduate would decide on law school, and wonders whether he would follow that path if he were starting over. Likely he would choose the law again, he decides, even though it would be with profound reservations, because Geoghegan has not entirely lost faith in the liberal values he absorbed early on as a law student at Harvard. His book portrays well the anxiety and defiance of a believer in expanded human rights practicing law in a conservative age. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-1-56584-817-7
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