DEFENDING THE DEVIL by Polly Nelson

DEFENDING THE DEVIL

My Story as Ted Bundy's Last Lawyer
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A powerful, moving account of a fledgling lawyer's struggle to stay the execution of serial killer Ted Bundy. As a first-year associate, Nelson blindly accepted a ``little pro bono project.'' She had no idea she was committing the next three years of her life to representing a man who had murdered (approximately) 35 young women. She had no idea that her client, a manic-depressive law school dropout, would repeatedly attempt to sabotage her representation, or that her law firm--Washington DC's white-shoe, politically connected Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering- -``would come to think that [she] had saddled them with this unsavory million-dollar case''; ultimately, they would fire her for her zealous, single-minded advocacy. Nor did she realize that her true opponents in the case would be not the prosecutors but the state and federal courts intent on executing her despised client, no matter what evidence of his insanity she presented. But Nelson's most profound lesson was that she could not focus exclusively on the constitutional issues of Bundy's appeal (such as his incompetence in representing himself, as he had insisted on doing at trial). Somehow, she had to come to grips with the ``absolute misogyny'' of her defendant's bestiality. She had to be able to answer the question posed by every reporter who thrust a microphone in her face: ``What about the victims?'' Nelson quotes liberally from the court record as she recreates the labyrinthine complexity of the death-row appeals process, but you don't have to be a lawyer to appreciate her epiphany as a litigator: ``The best approach is to gladly embrace all the facts, no matter what, and show that every last one of them only reinforce the unassailable correctness of your position''--namely, that capital punishment is murder, and Bundy, executed in 1989, didn't deserve to die. Both a stunningly candid personal story and a fascinating dissection of a misunderstood case. Deserves a wide readership. (First printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: July 21st, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-10823-7
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994




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