THE DEVIL'S DEFENDER by John Henry Browne


My Odyssey Through American Criminal Justice from Ted Bundy to the Kandahar Massacre
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A noted defense attorney’s unapologetic memoir of a long career in criminal justice.

Granted, even Hitler would be entitled to a jury trial were he a citizen of the United States. Still, Browne has to defend his defense not just of innocent people charged with crimes of various sorts, but also of people he readily calls “monsters who nonetheless still deserved the fair trial our Constitution promises.” Foremost among these monsters was Ted Bundy, who, well before being put to death in 1989, became a byword for murderous depravity. Browne allows that the Bundy case filled him with “disgust and resentment,” but still he did his honor-bound best to defend the serial killer, writing calmly of the calculus that goes into an attorney’s decision about whether a client should be allowed to testify on his or her own behalf—for, courtesy of the Fifth Amendment, we do not have to incriminate ourselves. Bundy did so, largely because, in love with his own narcissism, he believed that he could charm and outsmart the opposing attorneys and judge. He couldn’t. Browne recounts his work in other cases, as well, such as the notorious Wah Mee massacre in Seattle and, a decade afterward, another massacre, this time in Afghanistan and perpetrated—allegedly, of course—by an American soldier so brutalized by war and trauma that he stabbed, shot, and burned some 16 civilians. Browne does not disguise his intentions, though tough-minded readers of a conservative bent will immediately take issue with his insistence that “we the American people made Sergeant Bales”—into, that is, the murderer he was assumed to be—and his belief that the so-called Kandahar Massacre was an appropriate forum to put the war itself on trial.

Though no Gideon’s Trumpet, this is a touch better than the usual run of legal memoirs, and it affords useful insight into the ways of the law and its practitioners.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61373-487-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2016


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