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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2006 Michael S Lief and H. Mitchell Caldwell; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Makes for unexpectedly engaging listening - not only the arguments themselves (each an example of rhetorical mastery) but also the history provided to give each argument context." (American Lawyer)

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  • Overall

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.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 08-28-13

American History Pivot Points

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.

[If you are using a smart phone and would like to refer to this review later for the Table of Contents, press on the title of the review until you get the option to copy, copy the link, and paste it into your Notes.

If this review helped, please let me know by clicking 'yes']

29 of 37 people found this review helpful

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This book was captivating. I had no idea of some of the history of law. The readers were very good. Some of the best voice acting I've ever heard. This book I highly recommend.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Trials that get bogged down in too much detail.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I thought it could have been much shorter. They seemed to go into the life story of each person involved in each trial. That is fine if the book is about one trial, but when they have 6 or so to hit you with, it's a bit much.

What was most disappointing about Michael S. Lief and H. Mitchell Caldwell ’s story?

I thought the Ruby Ridge trial seemed very biased in the telling and had a hard time getting past that calling someone the "n" word didn't make you a racist, etc. <br/><br/>

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

I don't recall much of the narrator, so he didn't get in the way of the story, but didn't bring anything to it either.

Do you think The Devil's Advocates needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Do one case at a time and don't include so much that doesn't add to the story.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Joy
  • Lodi, NJ, United States
  • 10-26-07

Hiistorically interesting

But very long closing statements which, to me, in parts were with very confusing language could be of interest to a law student.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Terribly uneven and inconsistant.

I really enjoyed the first two cases and thought I had found a really great book... then it went off a cliff.

The book looks at famous or significant closing statements and the cases in which they played a significant role. Unfortunately, the treatment of the third case, Weaver's murder charge for the killing of a Federal Marshal at Ruby Ridge, was so one-sided and skewed as to call into question the entire book.

Due to space limitations, I can only cite two examples of the bias and spin that really poisoned that chapter. First, the authors use of language was deliberately designed to obscure the facts particularly by using "passive voice" to hide who committed an act when it not favorable to their agenda. In one example the authors stated that that the Branch Dividians at Wako TX "were dead by the end of the [federal assault]" strongly implying that the Federal govt killed them. However, it is well established they were dead before the assault, most killed by fellow cult members. Another case was the lengths they went to to explain that Randy Weaver was not a white supremacist. Apparently, despite the fact that he attended Arrian Nation meetings, wore a swastika, and his daughter called black children "N----s", he was not a racist. They explain that he does not believe that whites are superior to blacks, only that they should live separately... they do not mention that he believes that this means that all African-Americans (and every other minority for that matter) should be expelled from America. These are just two examples of any number of obscurantist and slanted bits of writing found in that chapter.

The rest of the book seems alright and even interesting and insightful. The problem is that having such a blatantly biased and one-sided treatment casts the whole book into doubt. I cannot trust even the portions that seem balanced after that chapter.

7 of 15 people found this review helpful