The Devil's Advocates shows us the crimes and trials that have captivated the public, cases that illuminate the underlying principles of the American criminal-justice system. Among the examples: future President John Adams establishes the right to a fair trial as he argues on behalf of the British soldiers who shot and killed five Americans during the Boston Massacre. The original temporary insanity defense involves a prominent congressman who gunned down a district attorney over an extramarital affair. And perhaps the most precedent-setting case is that of Ernesto Miranda, an accused rapist who confesses to the crime without having been notified of his Fifth Amendment right and the right to counsel. Here is your ringside seat to gripping drama, as well as to the shaping of the legal system that we thrill to and curse at today.
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My friends and I, playing cops and robbers during first grade recess, always solemnized each capture by administering the Miranda Warning perfectly. No, we weren't living in a challenging neighborhood - Jack Webb's Dragnet and Adam 12 were early evening rerun staples out local ABC affiliate.
20 years later, in law school, Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, its constitutional basis, and its numerous exceptions, took weeks of my criminal law class. I did wonder who Ernesto Miranda was; whether he had actually committed the crime he was convicted of; how his case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court; and what ended up happening to him. This book answers those questions, and more, about Miranda and other key criminal cases.
Michael S. Lief and H. Mitchell Caldwell provide a careful historical and cultural framework for these cases, and detailed personal histories of both the accused and the victims. Chapter 1, which deals with lynching in the south, is especially chilling.
These are the trials that are in the book, in the order that they are in (thanks Google Books for the table of contents), and I'm including the Audible concordance for anyone who wants to go to a specific case:
Ch 1 (Audible 1-2). When Mob Rule Trumps the Rule of Law. The unfortunate case of a man lynched in 1906, after the US Supreme Court agreed to review his capital conviction for rape establishes that the state has an obligation to protect prisoners in its custody.
Ch 2 (Audible 1-4). When the Constable Blunders. In 1956, evidence becomes inadmissible because it is obtained illegally and it is the "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" - even if the evidence is porn.
Ch 3 (Audible 1-6). Rules of Engagement. An (overly) sympathetic look at Randy Weaver and Ruby Ridge in 1992. Regardless, Gerry Spence's tactics were legendary (he presented no defense) and his hours long closing argument was compelling.
Ch 4 (Audible 2-3). Defending the Despised. Future president John Adams defends the British soldiers accused of killing American colonists in the Boston Massacre.
Ch 5 (Audible 2-5). You Have the Right to Remain Silent. The Miranda decision.
Ch 6 (Audible 2-7). The Black Doctor and the White Mob. Clarence Darrow successfully defends a Black family of professionals on trial for a 1925 killing in Detroit when a blue collar White mob attacked after the family moved into the neighborhood.
Ch 7 (Audible 3-3). The Trial of the (Nineteenth) Century. Congressman Daniel Sickles uses the temporary insanity defense after killing Phillip Barton Key, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, in 1859. Scandal knows no century.
Ch 8 (Audible 3-5). Genius, Scoundrel, Traitor. Former Vice President Aaron Burr's trial for the one crime listed in the U.S. Constitution, treason. Good history of Burr, trial a bit boring.
There were three narrators on this Audible, and that mostly worked - a few rough spots, but they weren't jarring enough so that I was distracted from the book.
This is under the Audible category "Mysteries and Thrillers - True Crime" but it's misplaced. It belongs in History.
When I finished this, I went looking for the first two books in the Closing Argument Chronicles - "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury" (2000) (famous trials) and "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down" (civil rights) (2006). They aren't on Audible, darn it.
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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""
Excellent Book even if you aren't a lawyer
I am neither a lawyer nor do I work in the legal profession, however, I found this book to be an excellent compendium of some VERY important cases in 200 years of American Law.
Darrow's comments on racism were (sadly) 40 years ahead of their time. And the closing from the Ruby Ridge case was excellent. The arguments that took place during Miranda proved to me that the Warren Court was just looking for a case to use as a way to make law. Listen to this book and you will not only learn about some great criminal case decisions, but sociology and history as well. I wish the other 2 in the series were available on Audible.