Mistrial by Mark Geragos and Pat Harris is a nonfiction book of pretty good short stories tied together with a more lofty agenda: addressing the institutional erosion of the defense of reasonable doubt.
Here are the good things about the book: It is written in a punchy attention grabbing style and the stories are of the sensational variety. Both lawyers know what they're talking about.
They lay out their insights - bam - right between the eye brows. Like this:
[V]ery few young men and women who graduate from law school will ever try a case. Some of them end up in areas of law where trials are virtually nonexistent, such as intellectual property or antitrust. Others go into large law firms where they are never the ones allowed to actually try a case. But many are frankly just too scared to do it. There are a large number of lawyers, many calling themselves trial lawyers, who are petrified of going to trial. You can identify the really nervous ones because they are always the biggest blowhards, screaming and threatening that if they don't get what they want the will just go to trial. Invariably if you look at them and say, "Okay, let's pick a jury," they fold like a cheap suit.
That really is quite clever.
They go after obnoxious people. Like Nancy Grace. Even though I don't watch t.v. at home, I've been unable to escape her many nights on the treadmill at the gym. They lay it all out there like this:
Grace was once a Georgia prosecutor known for being tough and for committing multiple acts of prosecutorial misconduct. "Prosecutorial misconduct" is legalese for saying she lied and cheated. In fact, appellate courts in Georgia found that she had committed prosecutorial misconduct three separate times in a nine-year career.
So the book is quite entertaining.
Yet one of the authors' missions is to change the way people think about the criminal justice system. To heighten awareness as to its increasingly lopsided nature. And to perhaps influence future jury pools. By reminding them of the importance of proving beyond a reasonable doubt.
This doesn't happen. It can't happen. Because the authors are dedicated fighters for the defense. The book is written to highlight their point of view. It is not subtle. It doesn't pretend to be objective. And as all trial lawyers know - people won't change their minds just because you tell them to.
This one gets a B-. It would have been better if Geragos and Harris could have spent more time on it. But hey - they're in-demand trial lawyers. So the fact they squeezed out any time to write this is deserving of applause.