CATSPAW: The Famed Trial Attorney's Heroic Defense of a Man Unjustly Accused by Louis Nizer

CATSPAW: The Famed Trial Attorney's Heroic Defense of a Man Unjustly Accused

Email this review


In an effective though overwritten account, the distinguished trial attorney (My Life in Court, etc.) tells the tragic story of Murray Gold, a former client who, according to Nizer, was twice wrongfully convicted of a horrific double murder. Gold was indicted for the grisly 1974 multiple-stabbing deaths of Connecticut attorney Irving Pasternak and his wife, Rhoda. A troubled man with psychiatric problems, the accused was Pasternak's ex-son-in-law and quickly became the favorite suspect of the police. According to Nizer, the case against Gold was entirely circumstantial (for instance, the killer, like Gold, wore shoes with the words ""Cats Paw"" on the heel--but Nizer explains that such shoes were widely distributed in the local area), while authorities ignored a much stronger case against Bruce Sanborn, an anti-Semitic Satanist who hated Pasternak and repeatedly threatened to kill him. Gold endured four trials, two of which ended in mistrials and two in convictions. Nizer never represented Gold at any of the trials; instead, he conducted a successful appeal to the Supreme Court of Connecticut after the first conviction (the Court held that testimony on Sanborn's alleged admission of guilt was improperly suppressed as hearsay) and a successful habeas corpus proceeding subsequent to the second conviction. Nizer argues persuasively that Gold was an innocent victim of prosecutorial misjudgment and his own paranoiac personality (Gold angrily fired Nizer after the appeal, fired his trial attorney later on, and rejected a proposed plea bargain, all because he suspected conspiracies against him). Although Nizer praises the American legal system, at the core of his narrative lies a monstrous proposition--that an innocent man spent nearly 17 years on trial and in prison even though there was never any direct evidence of his guilt. Nizer's style can be melodramatic and his account self-serving, but, overall, he tells an engrossing and powerful story of a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Donald Fine