Surging reports on high-society murder cases, featuring some of the most seamy and venal behavior this side of Gomorrah, from the man who wrote the book on such doings, Dunne (The Way We Lived Then, 1999, etc.)
Collected here are Dunne’s articles from Vanity Fair on high-profile courtroom dramas involving O.J. Simpson, Erik and Lyle Menendez, Claus von Bülow, the murder of Martha Moxley in Greenwich, Connecticut—nine stories in all, including a lacerating piece on the murder of his daughter, Dominique. Making no pretense at balance (Dunne is nothing if not opinionated and a great deal of the effectiveness of this work revolves around that), the author is scrupulously honest in his reporting, and thorough. He also moves at a good clip, pulling readers along as though a hand had clasped their sleeve, pointing out inconsistencies in testimony and the willful corruption of the truth by shady lawyers. O.J. gets the most pages: “The Simpson case is like a great trash novel come to life, a mammoth fireworks display of interracial marriage, love, lust, lies, hate, fame, wealth, beauty, obsession, spousal abuse, stalking, brokenhearted children, the bloodiest of bloody knife-slashing homicides, and all the justice that money can buy.” Dunne has a knack for capturing the air of unreality that bathes these trials, but the crimes themselves are simply grisly: “The porno star and the unemployed dishwasher implicated each other in helping Murillo as he held a pillow over her face to muffle her screams. It had taken the three of them 15 minutes to kill her.” Dunne also has a way with delivering a dig—“A man just convicted of twice attempting to murder his wife would not seem like much of a catch to most women”—although he can also be prim: a particular judge, for example, was “noticeably dressed in a manner associated more with Hollywood agents than with superior court judges.”
Are the scales of justice at work here? Hardly. But Dunne’s courtroom tales are a lot more lucid than most judge’s instructions to their juries.