Three nasty criminal cases provide a long-serving trial deputy in the Los Angeles DA’s office with the chance to nimbly explain what really goes on in a courtroom.
Batt has put in 25 years as a deputy district attorney in LA, working everything from hot prowl to mayhem, robbery to murder. She tenders here some fruits of her hard-won experience as illustrated by three exceptional crimes she prosecuted: an all-night crime spree that included rape and robbery; a violent gay rape; and a vicious assault by a respectable citizen who claimed to be cleaning up the Hollywood streets. Concise, blow-by-blow recountings deliver both wicked circumstantial color (“They might have gotten away with the whole thing if they had just stopped after the raping, pillaging, and burning”) and, importantly, the meat of the prosecutorial process: Will the jury empathize with your witness or victim? When is a plea bargain likely? What about the inherent conflict of interest in multiple-defendant cases? Who is a good juror? Questions of due diligence and preparation also arise, and the author imparts telling details, e.g., that a greasy lunch can compromise jurors’ attention to an afternoon opening statement. Always, Batt is concerned with the process of law: “Failure to provide prompt and thorough discovery to the defense is unethical,” she notes, “and can result in a variety of sanctions.” Yet she is also attuned to the nuances of the courtroom, realizing that one judge’s homophobia compromised her case, and getting a surreal, creepy glimpse into the mind of another supposedly objective justice, who orders her to do something about her hair: “It’s too curly. I mean, for God's sake, you have these little golden-brown ringlets all over your head . . . it's simply too—uh—too distracting.” Though Batt is a prosecutor, her 25 rules for giving effective testimony could be used by either side.
A slap-in-the-face look at the criminal-justice system.