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ALMOST INNOCENT

FROM SEARCHING TO SAVED IN AMERICA'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

An intriguing, informed examination of the justice system from a professional and personal perspective.

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A lawyer’s memoir draws connections between her cases and her family’s involvement with the law.

Brien weaves together her personal story, including a somewhat dysfunctional childhood, marriage to an NFL player, and motherhood, with tales from her work as a criminal defense lawyer and the saga of her family’s involvement in a federal mortgage fraud case. Brien, whose work involves appeals by people already convicted of crimes, recounts the stories of clients whose actual guilt or innocence is less important than the fact that they have been ill-served by the justice system, facing bias, mandatory minimum sentencing, inadequate representation, and unsympathetic officials. Those stories are interspersed with Brien’s personal history. She was raised primarily by her White mother; her Muscogee father’s undiagnosed depression made him an unstable presence. After difficult teenage years, she attended Berkeley and Stanford universities. She married a Berkeley classmate whose football career led to several cross-country moves—and the experience of seeing her husband under investigation following a business associate’s fraudulent activities. Brien finds parallels between her clients’ experiences and her own, drawing lessons from them while remaining aware of the privilege that makes her family’s encounter with the law a very different experience. Brien, a strong writer, is particularly skilled at explaining the procedural minutiae that form the basis of her work without overwhelming the reader with legalese. She also excels at revealing her clients’ humanity as she shares their stories. She is remarkably open in describing her relationship with her “hippie football-playing feminist frat guy” husband and the challenges they faced balancing their careers while raising small children. Brien ably explains how she maintains a fundamental belief in the legal system while directly confronting its many shortcomings, appreciating each of the rare wins she accomplishes on behalf of a client. The result is a compelling, thought-provoking work that shies away from easy answers to questions of right and wrong or guilt and innocence.

An intriguing, informed examination of the justice system from a professional and personal perspective.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64543-203-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Amplify Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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