#BookReview: The Plea Of Innocence by Tim Bakken

An Interesting Proposal. Bakken is a clearly knowledgeable and frequent writer of this field, and I’m certainly far from being anywhere near his level – so I’ll not directly debate his points in this review. Instead, this is absolutely a book that I think anyone who is interested in reforming the American legal system should read and consider. While I personally don’t think I would go as far in those reforms as Bakken thinks is necessary, I do agree with him that there needs to be better ways for wrongly convicted genuinely innocent people to reverse their convictions in a timely manner. Overall this is a well documented and seemingly strong argument for his position, and one that is fairly easily approachable even as a non-expert (though college educated) reader. Very much recommended.

This review of The Plea Of Innocence by Tim Bakken was originally written on July 15, 2022.

#BookReview: Next Of Kin by Kia Abdullah

Legal Thriller With Most Explosions Outside The Courtroom. This is a British legal thriller where the trial actually ends with about a quarter or so of the book left to go… and *then* the explosions start. By the end of the trial, you think you know what happened. And then there is the Detective, who, like in V for Vendetta, just isn’t quite satisfied with the answers he’s been given. So he continues to poke around a bit… and in the process the reader gets put through a shock and awe campaign that would wow even the Iraqis circa 2004. Truly an excellent tale very smartly told but covering topics which make a lot of us cringe at – which is one surefire sign of a tale that *needs* to be told. Truly the only potential negative mark here is for those readers who like every single plot thread tied up neatly in a nice little bow by the end of the book. This book… is more messy and “true to reality” than that. Still, partly *because* of that abrupt ending, this book is thus very much recommended.

This review of Next Of Kin by Kia Abdullah was originally written on September 15, 2022.

#BookReview: Mystic Wind by James Barretto

Strong Legal Thriller Debut. As a former District Attorney’s Office employee (I worked on their tech) and (mostly) former police accountability activist who also happens to be a former trailer park kid… I have quite a bit in common with our hero of this new series. Which may have made this particular book have a bit more impact for me – while not having these *exact* experiences, I’ve been close enough that they all rang all too true. And what experiences we have, from having (and losing) it all in order to truly find yourself (which to be clear, never really happened in my own life) to crime lords not caring about the “little people” they are destroying to cops, prosecutors, and judges – who are *supposed* to care about those very people – placing their own profits and aspirations ahead of truly serving the people and truly seeking justice. Of course, Barretto also does himself a few favors in setting the book in the early 80s, before American police – and the entire “justice” system – became as militarized as it now stands, and before activists really rose in response to such militarization. For example, data does not exist for the period in question, yet American police are known to have killed over 10,000 people within the last decade as I write this review. In setting this story (and likely series?) in such a “simpler” time, Barretto manages to be able to tell his tale(s) without having to worry about such issues. Overall truly a solid legal thriller that also provides a solid look at some areas many might prefer not to see. Very much recommended.

This review of Mystic Wind by James Barretto was originally written on September 5, 2022.

#BookReview: The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Interesting Premise. Novel Concept. Quite Verbose. This was a book that had an interesting premise for a story and a novel concept for storytelling – particularly with its emphasis on more modern communication methods – but ultimately was just. too. long. There are so very many characters here that few of them truly get fleshed out and many of them become very hard to keep distinct even in a mind normally attuned to doing just that. And so very many extraneous details that while enhancing the epistolary feel, really drag the overall narrative to the speed of a human baby just beginning to learn to crawl. But other than these two points, the story was quite good and the overall concept is something I’d like to see done better, either in future works from this author or by other authors generally. Recommended.

This review of The Appeal by Janice Hallett was originally written on February 2, 2022.

#BookReview: The Genome Defense by Jorge L Contreras

Dense Yet Enlightening. If you’re like me and don’t like taking books across into a new month, I do *not* recommend trying to read this on the last day of the month while still working or having virtually any other obligation. Though its bibliography is a touch low at just 17% of this advanced copy (and it has numerous problems, at least in this form, of saying something like “the industry spent $ billions of dollars” without actually giving the number – a problem I’ve never noted before in any other such text), much of the reason for that is that the author himself conducted so many interviews and consulted the public court records so much, so at least there is that on that particular point. Beyond its sourcing though, this is truly a fascinating yet *dense* look at the particular issue of the AMP v Myriad patent lawsuit that eventually became a landmark Supreme Court of the United States case, detailing its full history and the personnel involved, at least insofar as their personal involvement with the case goes. (Vs other similar books looking at a particular issue like this, where full biographies of the personnel are given. Here, just enough biography is given to establish who this person is within context of this issue and their motivations surrounding it, without giving their full life stories outside of events connected to this exact case.) You may say to yourself “this is just 350 or so effective pages, that is an easy day’s read”. IT. IS. NOT. I cannot reiterate enough just how dense (yet truly readable and fascinating) this book is. Almost as though it seems to try to pack in double the amount of words of a book of similar length. Still, it is truly compelling, truly comprehensive, and truly well written, and for this it is very much recommended.

This review of The Genome Defense by Jorge L Contreras was originally written on October 1, 2021.

#BookReview: Desperate by Kris Maher

Erin Brockovich In Appalachia. This is one of those books where the description from the publisher really does tell you pretty well exactly what the book is about: One town’s, and really one man’s, courtroom war against a coal company that was polluting its water supplies. There are the requisite dives into the various histories of the prominent people, including the lawyer, the CEO of the company, and the general region itself – home of the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys – but mostly this is a tale of how the courtroom drama came to be, how the war was waged, and its ultimate outcomes. If you’re looking for a more general examination of Appalachia and its issues… this isn’t that. But if you’re interested in “Little Guy vs Big [Insert Industry]”… this is gonna be right up your alley. Very much recommended.

This review of Desperate by Kris Maher was originally written on August 18, 2021.

#BookReview: Punishment Without Trial by Carissa Byrne Hessick

Another Critical Book For Those Seeking To Understand The American Justice System. This is yet another critical book for those seeking to understand the full scope of all that is wrong with the American justice system and how we got here, along with Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop, Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow (referenced herein, with solid points about where Alexander goes wrong in her presumptions), and Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law’s Prison By Any Other Name. Whereas Balko looks at police militarization, Alexander looks at mass incarceration, and Schenwar and Law look at probation and parole, here we look at the critical phase *between* arrest and conviction – the various and severely punitive pre-trial punishments and plea bargains. It is within the scope of this particular problem that Hessick shows just how large and pervasive this particular problem is – to the level that even as many often acknowledge its shortcomings, it is often protected as a means of not “overburdening” the courts! (A tip for “lawmakers”: Rescind 10 laws for every 1 you pass. That would go quite far in reducing the burden on the courts. #ijs ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Truly a remarkable and shocking work, and one that every American needs to read. Very much recommended.

This review of Punishment Without Trial by Carissa Byrne Hessick was originally written on August 22, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: An Unreliable Truth by Victor Methos

This week we’re looking at a compelling court room drama set in a fascinating world. This week we’re looking at An Unreliable Truth by Victor Methos.

But A Reliable Author. This was my first time reading this author, which makes me a bit different from most of the other ARC reviewers on Goodreads just under three weeks before publication. And I can tell you without hesitation that this is a perfectly fine first-for-you book, so long as you don’t mind coming into a world where at least some of the characters have already had other adventures with each other. (Though the way this one reads, one presumes even the first book was written such that the reader is coming in to already-established relationships.) The crime at the heart of this one is particularly grisly, and worthy of a capital trial (for those that believe murdering a murderer is something anyone, let alone a government, should be allowed to do). The personal dramas among the lawyers are compelling. The courtroom drama as the lawyers fight with and against each other is at least as compelling as any other factor. And the outcomes are satisfying within the realms of the world and particular story – though that in no way gives you any hint as to what they actually are. ๐Ÿ˜€ Basically, if you like courtroom dramas, you’re likely going to like this one. If you like compelling mysteries, you’re likely to like this one. If you like just good stories period, you’re likely to like this one. So if you’re open to any of the above at all, you should read this book. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Vanishing Trial by Robert Katzberg

Solid Examination More Memoir Than Treatise. I was actually going to 4* this one until I went back and re-read the description, which did in fact hint at this being more memoir than treatise – which was my only real reason for docking the star. I had thought, reading it well after actually picking it up, that I was getting more treatise with just a smattering of memoir.

That noted, Katzberg does a remarkable job of showing the problems he notes as only an insider can, and sets the stage for further exploration – perhaps, as he so often notes, from someone more scholarly inclined – of the exact issues, their exact causes and histories, and maybe some examination of potential solutions, even including Katzberg’s own. Ultimately more Failure Is Not An Option (Gene Kranz’s remarkable memoir of his time as a Flight Director during the Apollo era) than Rise Of the Warrior Cop (Radley Balko’s complete record of policing in America and in particular its militarization of the last 50 years or so), this is truly a spectacular effort, well written with concise points, solid anecdotes, and an appropriate smattering of humor. Very much recommended.

This review of The Vanishing Trial by Robert Katzberg was originally written on June 22, 2020.

#BookReview: Free To Believe by Luke Goodrich

Decent Start. Before I get into this review, it is probably important that you – *my* reader – understand the perspective I’m coming from. And that is that of the “Doorkeeeper” of Sam Shoemaker’s somewhat famous poem “I Stand At The Door“. So look that up and you’ll understand why I’m approaching the rest of this the way I am.

For those “deep inside”, they will probably rate this book around 4* or 5*. From that perspective, it is solid but might step on a few toes here and there – and they’re not always going to like its slightly-more-pragmatic-than-many-of-them approach to its reasoning.

For the “far outside” crowd, they’re probably going to rate this thing much closer to 1*, though the more objective among them might hit it at 2*. There are just so many issues with the book, and this crowd will likely judge them more harshly than I’m about to.

So that is the range I would expect depending on where a particular reader falls on the scale of “deep inside” Christendom – particularly its American version – vs “far outside” of it. Standing at the door, I note that I deduct 1 star immediately the instant I see prooftexting, which is the practice of citing random Bible verses out of context in support of some point or another.

The fact that the prooftexting herein is so rampant – from the ending of the first chapter until nearly literally the last words of the text – and so invidious – several times very obviously taking verses *far* from their original context and meaning by any even semi objective reasoning and often times taking as little as a single word from a particular verse – means that I can’t rate this any higher than 3*. And we haven’t even gotten to the other issues yet.

The other issues being factual errors and logical fallacies, mostly strawmen but also a few others. This, from a lawyer that boasts of his perfect US Supreme Court record! Factual errors include claiming that a factory is a “typical” work environment in the US. It hasn’t been for many years now. Similarly, the author claims that “many” doctors were practicing while abortion was still completely illegal in the US, pre-Roe v Wade, which was decided nearly 37 yrs before the publication of this book. How many professionals – of any stripe – do you know who are still working after 4o years?

The strawmen primarily involve abortion, gay rights, and public spaces – which form 4 of 7 chapters in the biggest section of the book. Here, it becomes evident – particularly in the author’s discussion of gay rights – that his closeness to the issue from his professional work becomes as much a hindrance to what he is willing to speak to as a help in pointing out various legal aspects of the circumstances.

It is because of these final two issues that I had to drop my own rating from 3* to 2*.

There is much good to be found here, and at minimum it can help even non-Christians see what prominent Christian legal scholars are thinking. But the issues are simply too rampant to allow me to rank it any higher. Recommended, but should be read with an eye to what is not said as much as what is.

This review of Free to Believe by Luke Goodrich was originally written on October 17, 2019.