Will engage fans of the series and readers who wonder if prosecutors really do cut corners in their campaigns against...

Rebuttal of the case against Steven Avery, from a defense attorney who sees larger patterns of malfeasance in Wisconsin justice.

Cicchini (Tried and Convicted: How Police, Prosecutors, and Judges Destroy Our Constitutional Rights, 2012, etc.), who assumes readers' familiarity with the popular Netflix series Making a Murderer, views the shady prosecutorial moves central to the documentary as typical of his state overall: “We defense lawyers are rarely bored….Wisconsin loves its massive, draconian, ever-expanding and increasingly irrational criminal justice industrial complex.” The author relitigates Avery’s troubling conviction by walking back through the cases against him, both chronologically and in terms of the procedural and evidentiary issues raised, adding legal depth to key points raised in the documentary. Many of these issues have nationwide resonance, such as eyewitness misidentification, which resulted in Avery’s initial wrongful conviction for sexual assault. As the author notes, “Avery learned that his sixteen-witness alibi defense was far from airtight; the prosecutor defeated it with a single eyewitness.” Another issue defense attorneys regard more dubiously than the general public concerns police interrogations leading to false confessions; here, the self-incrimination notoriously elicited from Avery’s pliable, juvenile nephew is examined in terms of the manipulative techniques used by zealous detectives. Cicchini argues that despite the culturally reassuring Miranda warning, “police interrogations are a guilt-presumptive process.” As in the documentary, the author regards officials’ handling of DNA and physical evidence as most suggestive of possible corrupt behavior to frame Avery, who was pursuing a lawsuit for wrongful conviction against Manitowoc County at the time of his arrest. He additionally examines suspicious intricacies within Wisconsin’s bail, preliminary hearing, and appellate procedures. Overall, Cicchini makes his case clearly. Although he’s enthusiastic about picking apart the prosecution’s narrative, his discussion of legal principles is occasionally technical, and specific case comparisons would have bolstered his insinuation that Wisconsin is an ominous legal backwater.

Will engage fans of the series and readers who wonder if prosecutors really do cut corners in their campaigns against serious criminals.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63388-255-3

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017



"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965




The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.

A former Justice Department lawyer, who now devotes her private practice to federal appeals, dissects some of the most politically contentious prosecutions of the last 15 years.

Powell assembles a stunning argument for the old adage, “nothing succeeds like failure,” as she traces the careers of a group of prosecutors who were part of the Enron Task Force. The Supreme Court overturned their most dramatic court victories, and some were even accused of systematic prosecutorial misconduct. Yet former task force members such as Kathryn Ruemmler, Matthew Friedrich and Andrew Weissman continued to climb upward through the ranks and currently hold high positions in the Justice Department, FBI and even the White House. Powell took up the appeal of a Merrill Lynch employee who was convicted in one of the subsidiary Enron cases, fighting for six years to clear his name. The pattern of abuse she found was repeated in other cases brought by the task force. Prosecutors of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen pieced together parts of different statutes to concoct a crime and eliminated criminal intent from the jury instructions, which required the Supreme Court to reverse the Andersen conviction 9-0; the company was forcibly closed with the loss of 85,000 jobs. In the corruption trial of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a key witness was intimidated into presenting false testimony, and as in the Merrill Lynch case, the prosecutors concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense, a violation of due process under the Supreme court’s 1963 Brady v. Maryland decision. Stevens’ conviction, which led to a narrow loss in his 2008 re-election campaign and impacted the majority makeup of the Senate, seems to have been the straw that broke the camel's back; the presiding judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate abuses. Confronted with the need to clean house as he came into office, writes Powell, Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to take action.

The author brings the case for judicial redress before the court of public opinion.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61254-149-5

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Brown Books

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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