REASONABLE DOUBT

THE FASHION WRITER, CAPE COD, AND THE TRIAL OF CHRIS MCCOWEN

Examination of a murder investigation perhaps gone awry, with Caucasian racism against African-Americans as the leading cause.

Manso (Ptown: Art, Sex and Money on the Outer Cape, 2002, etc.) has resided off and on in Cape Cod, Mass., for decades. One of his neighbors was Christa Worthington, an heiress and fashion writer from a prominent family. In early 2002, Worthington was murdered at her home, leaving her toddler daughter in the house with the bloodied body. Despite the large cast of suspects, for years local police and prosecutors could not announce a solution to the puzzling homicide. Finally, in 2006, the trial of Christopher McCowen began. McCowen, an African-American garbage collector who serviced multiple Cape Cod towns, had been measured with a borderline IQ, but seemed to manage well in his geographically constricted realm, especially with Caucasian women who allegedly found him sexually alluring. Worthington, portrayed by Manso and his sources as sexually promiscuous, might have engaged in casual sex with McCowen. But the author believed from the start that McCowen was being investigated primarily because of racist police and prosecutors. According to information gathered by Manso, other men and even a few women, all Caucasian, were far more likely subjects. As the investigation and the trial unfolded, Manso began openly assisting McCowen's defense lawyer. Because of that role, the author believed he was being singled out for harassment by the prosecutor, who is portrayed throughout the book as dishonest, incompetent and personally unpleasant. Manso says repeatedly that the book is meant as an unbiased account of an investigation, a town and an entire island. Yet his claim of unbiased journalism is contradicted repeatedly by his loaded language. The author devotes 240 pages to the trial itself, presenting a day-by-day chronicle that contains useful information but eventually becomes tedious. A flawed account of a sensational murder case.

 

Pub Date: July 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9666-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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IN COLD BLOOD

"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

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

LICENSED TO LIE

EXPOSING CORRUPTION IN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

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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