JUSTICE IN PLAIN SIGHT

HOW A SMALL-TOWN NEWSPAPER AND ITS UNLIKELY LAWYER OPENED AMERICA’S COURTROOMS

A narrowly focused book that reads smoothly, chronicling a newspaper’s dedication to doing “its job: tell readers about...

A retired journalist from the Riverside (California) Press-Enterprise recounts his publication’s unlikely crusade to open court proceedings to the public; two appeals reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before the 1980s, judges throughout California routinely excluded journalists and citizens from courtrooms during preliminary hearings and jury selection in cases proceeding to trial. Along with most other news organizations, the family-owned Press-Enterprise accepted the restrictions. But three extremely high-profile criminal cases led the owner/publisher and his feisty top editor to challenge judges’ decisions to close their courtrooms during consequential stages of the proceedings. In addition to fully explaining the First Amendment issues at stake, Bernstein (The Tortoise and the Hare Race Again, 2006, etc.) humanizes the narrative by offering extensive portraits of the Press-Enterprise decision-makers, the unlikely lawyers they retained, the local judges involved, and the prosecutors and defense attorneys in the three death penalty cases: a botched bank robbery that ended in a bloody fashion, the rape and murder of a high school girl, and “at least a dozen drug-induced murders of elderly hospital patients by a misguided employee.” The author has clearly conducted prodigious research about the three cases, the local judges and lawyers, the justices serving on the Supreme Court during the 1980s, and the agonizing decision-making inside the Press-Enterprise newsroom. Bernstein longs for an era when a newspaper owner would spend large amounts of money to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court—not once, but twice during the same decade—with no guarantee for any financial return on the investment. Perhaps most enlightening and impressive is the author’s acquisition of notes from the justices and their clerks about the closed-door deliberations leading to favorable decisions about the openness of hearings and jury selections.

A narrowly focused book that reads smoothly, chronicling a newspaper’s dedication to doing “its job: tell readers about shocking crimes in their own backyard.”

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4962-0201-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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