A novice attorney struggles with one of the most challenging and melodramatic cases of his young career.
For this serpentine, true-crime dramatic depiction, novelist and essayist Seay (Dead in a Ditch, 2011, etc.) effectively collaborated with debut author Lloyd, an Oklahoma litigator who, in distinctive detail, describes the yearlong, first-degree murder case that would shake up his early days in the courtroom. Escorting Seay to the Oklahoma locations crucial to the events and drawing from a memory bolstered by a trove of newspaper articles and court transcripts, Lloyd engrossingly pieces together a story of crime and blame. The case began in 1982, a time when Lloyd, a cub lawyer having only tried (and lost) one jury trial, was engulfed in grief after losing his newborn son. He channeled great effort into examining a homicide involving Noi Kanchana Mitchell, a wife charged with the ruthless murder of her husband, Bobby, in a case that, in Lloyd’s words, would take “all of the energy and physical reserve I could muster” and endanger his marriage and jeopardize his financial stability. Thankfully, this intriguing setup delivers on all of its promises as readers are immediately thrust into the story of Bobby Mitchell and his Thai wife, Noi, and the nagging feeling Lloyd experienced that she was innocent of his murder even though the odds were stacked against her. The primary evidence, which pointed to her direct involvement in her husband’s strangling, shooting, and corpse disposal, included the statements of an accomplice and Noi’s audiotaped confession. Upon questioning her, the attorney discovered a language barrier and some emotional trauma, which became problematic to sleuthing the case. Lloyd, clever and determined, discounted Noi’s confession, believing it to have been coerced by police, and through preliminary hearings, courtroom dramatics, key witnesses, misled speculation, and cruel accusations, the truth, while untidy, finally emerged in grand fashion. Despite three trials, fluctuating self-confidence, and numerous roadblocks, Lloyd triumphed. His tale provides tantalizing, exhilarating fodder for Seay to mold and craft into a rollicking murder trial that moves swiftly despite a surfeit of heavily detailed events and many supporting characters. Besides enticing Perry Mason fans, this book should please readers devilishly curious about the intricate workings of the justice system and the trial-by-jury process.
A bracing, spirited true-crime narrative that reads like fiction but is very much real and rooted in the brutality and injustices of contemporary life.