The autobiographical remembrances of a New Jersey criminal lawyer, including his dramatic attempt to win freedom for a falsely imprisoned man.
Hartmann takes the reader through the arc of his professional life, starting with his experience as a college undergraduate and enthusiastic young Republican, through the academic drudgery of law school, and then into the meat of the tale, his years of invaluable on-the-job training as a defense attorney. His reflections are entertainingly scattershot, nimbly jumping from one impossibly absurd scenario to another, capturing the surreal wheels of justice in motion. Comedic quips often speckle the stories, softening the accounts of arid legal complexities and human tragedy. Describing the “misconception that prosecutors are great cross-examiners,” he observes: “[I]f you can say the words, ‘And then what happened?’, then you can prosecute a double homicide....Most prosecutors couldn’t get their own three-year-old to admit to taking the cookie out of the cookie jar, even with crumbs all over the child’s face.” Advising a potential juror how to exempt himself from duty, Hartmann counsels: “[S]imply take a deep breath and in a torn voice say, ‘Your Honor, I don’t feel that I can judge anyone.’ ” Interlaced with the personal narrative is a gripping subplot featuring an innocent man unjustly incarcerated for a crime someone else committed; the innocent man steadfastly refuses to plead guilty out of a seemingly rare sense of dignity. In the author’s voice, the lighthearted yet palpable cynicism tempers the emotional description of the defendant’s ennobling idealism. Hartmann’s considerate, unpretentious narrative ably reveals the general messiness of law and his thoughtful attempts to reconcile himself within that chaos.
A keen, lighthearted look at the human side of law.