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The Smoking Gun: Day by Day Through a Shocking Murder Trial with Gerry Spenceby Gerry Spence
Synopses & Reviews
From America's foremost criminal defense lawyer and author of the bestselling How to Argue and Win Every Time comes this riveting, true account of a trial that adeptly exposes the unrelenting power of the state, which so often crushes those — guilty or innocent — who come before the bar of justice. It could happen to you.
When Sandy Jones and her teenage son were accused of murdering a real estate developer on their hardscrabble Oregon farm, the prosecution had an eyewitness to the shooting and a photograph of Sandy holding a smoking rifle. County officials kept Sandy in jail while they awaited the trial, despite ballistic evidence that strongly suggested she hadn't fired the fatal shot. The case erupted into an epic struggle between Sandy — who was poor, different, and a woman — and the "good old boys" of Lincoln County, Oregon, who held all the power.
Though the Joneses' guilt seemed eminently clear to the county and the prosecution, Gerry Spence, renowned for his work on the cases of Karen Silkwood and Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, took the case pro bono and the courtroom battle exploded into three years of intensely moving jury trials, recounted here from the record of the case. The Smoking Gun follows Gerry Spence through his passionate arguments with two different judges and two different prosecutorial teams, his exacting jury selection, his expert questioning of the witnesses, and his incredible rapport with the jury as he fights for the rights of Sandy and her son.
With a superb sense of drama and an intimate knowledge of the court system, Spence highlights the pitfalls that every defendant faces, making The Smoking Gun extremely relevant today, when our rights are being eroded and when the average American, even if innocent, is hard-pressed to obtain a fair trial.
"[E]lectrifying and sensational....The blizzards of argument and counterargument that would be tedious reading in less talented hands are neatly incorporated into this thrilling account of injustice barely averted." Publishers Weekly
"Sometimes self-righteous, sometimes merciless: an unforgettable account of the state's power against individuals who might be innocent." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"We have the privilege of getting inside Spence's head....A true maverick, Spence is someone you'd want on your side." Mary Frances Wilkens, Booklist
"[T]o anyone interested in the detailed anatomy of a murder trial, The Smoking Gun provides an informative glimpse inside American justice." Douglas McCollam, The Washington Post
"[A] mesmerizing and frightening true tale....[Spence] is a great trial lawyer. He also happens to be an excellent writer." The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Gerry Spence is just as good a writer as John Grisham....Spence's writing brings [the characters] to life." Massachusetts Law Review
"Spence's words flow from the pages...a gripping story." Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
"The Smoking Gun is many things. Certainly, a gripping murder case told by a master storyteller, one who also happens to be America's premier criminal defense attorney. It is also a fascinating anatomy of bitter courtroom battles and behind-the-scenes strategizing by the prosecution and the defense. Finally, and perhaps most important, it is a story that should be frightening to all Americans — that without the best legal representation possible, innocent people can be convicted of murder." Vincent Bugliosi, coauthor of Helter Skelter
"The Smoking Gun is a vivid, sometimes painfully persuasive look at the nitty-gritty of the American criminal justice system, where often mundane settings become a stage for extreme emotions." Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove
"See a murder trial, The Smoking Gun, through the eyes of Gerry Spence. There is no better seat, no better-equipped luxury box, no better insider's position than through Spence's unflinching vision." Judge Jim Randall, Minnesota Court of Appeals
"The pages of Spence's latest legal drama are smokin' like the murder weapon he ultimately crammed down the DA's throat. He is the best lawyer-storyteller I know. This is by far his best tale — and it's all true." Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center
"The Smoking Gun is a courtroom drama that keeps the reader riveted as it moves from crime scene to trial....In short, it is a sad tale about our criminal justice system that occasionally fails. Sadder still is the number of innocent defendants who do not have Gerry Spence to help them." Geraldine Ferraro, former assistant district attorney and Democratic vice presidential candidate
About the Author
Gerry Spence has spent a lifetime representing those he calls "the lost, the poor, the powerless, the voiceless, and the damned." He has tried and won many high-profile cases, including the Karen Silkwood radiation poisoning case, the defense of Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, the defense of Imelda Marcos, and the case brought against Penthouse magazine by Miss Wyoming. He has never lost a jury criminal trial. Spence is the founder of the nonprofit Trial Lawyers College and a well-known national commentator on the justice system. He is the author of twelve previous books and is a noted photographer. He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
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