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THE LAST DEFENSE by Christopher Darden


by Christopher Darden & Dick Lochte

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-451-20732-7
Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Hotshot lawyer Mercer Early, the putative hero of this third collusion between Darden and Lochte (L.A. Justice, 2001, etc.), wouldn’t recognize a legal principle if it were labeled as such and personally delivered by Thurgood Marshall. What Mercer—black, bright, and ethically challenged—does recognize is the path to partnership at prestigious Carter & Hansborough, a path he’s following lickety-split as this courtroom drama opens. On behalf of a drug-dealing lowlife, he uses a doctored tape to discredit a key witness. Mercer’s client walks, but not far: he’s offed that very night. Indicted for the crime is LAPD Detective Claude Burris, the selfsame key witness discredited by Mercer. Along with virtually everyone else, Mercer thinks Burris guilty, but his belief becomes irrelevant when Burris’s girlfriend, armed to the teeth with a Mercer indiscretion, cows him by demanding: Defend my boyfriend, or I’ll ventilate your checkered past. So here’s the made-for-daytime-TV situation: a white cop with a black lover, on trial for killing a black drug dealer, is represented, under duress, by a black lawyer. Carter & Hansborough, as morally myopic as its star litigator, wrings every single set of its hands at this scenario until certain political advantages become evident. Hand-wringing stops, bullets fly, blood flows, bodies fall, Mercer triumphs, readers yawn.

Riddled with knowing banalities (“In most cases, D.A.’s and defense lawyers choose different kinds of jurors”) and bad prose: hackwork unredeemed by occasional bursts of courtroom energy.