THE 13TH JUROR by John T. Lescroart


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Appearing as defense counsel for Jennifer Witt in the sentencing phase of her trial for killing her husband and son, San Francisco attorney Dismas Hardy finds himself inching slowly, slowly from the back bench into the hot seat. Both Diz and David Freeman, his colleague, mentor, and landlord, who's defending Jennifer, know she's not the ideal client. She alternately postures and freezes up; she says nothing about a $300,000 bank account she'd kept hidden from her husband; when she's deined bail, she escapes from prison and holes up in Costa Rica for three months; and she refuses to let David submit evidence that she was a battered wife and abused daughter -- even though the prosecutor, who's running for California attorney general, plans to paint her as an insurance-money killer who also shot her seven-year-old son, Matt, when he got in the way. To top it off, the prosecutor announces new evidence that Jennifer killed her first husband nine years ago for his insurance. During the trial to determine Jennifer's guilt or innocence, the balance of power seesaws between the prosecution and the defense, but, inevitably, Jennifer's found guilty. Then, during the penalty phase, Diz is left alone at the defense table, praying that one of his unlikely leads -- the slim hope of persuading Jennifer's mother or psychiatrist to testify about the abuse she denies; or a possible seam linking Larry Witt's death to another murder -- win turn into a defense he can smuggle into the penalty hearings over the judge's frigid warnings. Diz's defense is so hamstrung by his own client that after a slow start and painstaking, but uninspired, courtroom scenes, his case builds a ton of pressure as it goes down to the wire -- though it never becomes the barn-burning equal of Diz's last, Hard Evidence (1993).

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1994
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Donald Fine