Thursday, April 3, 2008

Trial Stories

Trial Stories, edited by Michael E. Tigar and Angela J. Davis, uses the stories nine trials to illustrate and reflect on trial advocacy. The authors are ten law professors who offer different perspectives on a wide range of cases illustrating different aspects of trial advocacy. The writing is non-technical and lively.

History buffs will enjoy several of the essays, including Robert A. Ferguson's on the trial of Aaron Burr. Carol S. Steiker's chapter on Clarence Darrow’s famous advocacy on behalf of Leopold and Loeb brings it up to date by exploring themes in current capital punishment debates. Barbara Bergman recounts Darrow's stirring (and successful) defense of Dr. Ossian Sweet and his ten codefendants, blacks prosecuted in 1925 after one of them fired shots into an angry white crowd that surrounded their house. Paul Bergman and Marianne Wesson tell the story of an alleged insurance fraud in Kansas in 1879, imaginatively having counsel explain their trial strategies to us.

Michael Tigar, who was appointed to represent Terry Nichols -- Timothy McVeigh’s alleged coconspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing -- writes about that case, as well as contrasting two recent cases concerning the painkiller Vioxx. Other recent trial stories are those of the O.J. Simpson murder trial (told by Angela Davis) and the Pennzoil v. Texaco case (told by Robert Lloyd). (My favorite line in the Pennzoil chapter came 32 pages into it: "the facts of the case were, as the reader is undoubtedly painfully aware, complex. For the jurors, already numbed by seven days of voir dire and opening statements, the story was hard to follow.")

The first essay in the book has local interest. It concerns the defense of a Pierce County woman who killed her husband in 1980 and asserted self defense based on his abuse of her. The case went to the Washington Supreme Court, which held that testimony on battered woman syndrome was admissible and that the trial court should have given an instruction that she had no duty to retreat in her own home. State v. Allery, 101 Wash. 2d 591, 682 P.2d 312 (1984). The author, Ellen Yaroshefsky, was Allery’s attorney and is now a professor at Cardozo.

Trial Stories is available in the law library: KF226.T76 2008 at Reference Area.

1 comment:

National Institute for Trial Advocacy said...

All good suggestions with unique flair. Great post.