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A review of scott turows book presumed innocent

This question of the integrity of the criminal justice system generally, the integrity of the particular individuals who are involved in the book, the integrity of the judge who ends up presiding over Rusty Sabich's trial, the integrity of his boss, Raymond Horgan, his own integrity, and without, you know, I'm not sure if we should provide an spoilers here, but the integrity of other people around him.

Presumed Innocent

Just as the integrity of just about everybody else in the novel, and the integrity of the institutions involved, and that's one of the things that I think is particularly good about the book.

That it doesn't whitewash anyone, doesn't make anyone into an unambiguous villain. There's always a little bit of gray, a little bit of uncertainty. ALAFAIR BURKEWell, we find Rusty at the beginning of the novel at the funeral of another prosecutor in Kindle County named Carolyn Polhemus, and one of the things I love about the book is it's a first-person narration, but we have an unreliable narrator let's say, or a narrator who kind of chooses when to disclose certain facts to us as the audience.

So we see him really as a colleague at first at this funeral, and his office in Kindle County is under considerable political pressure which I think is also depicted very well in the book because of an imminent election, a contested election, and there's pressure to solve Carolyn Polhemus's murder.

  • This case, and others like it that he worked on during these years, turn up time and again in fictional form in his novels, including Presumed Innocent, which contains a subplot involving payoffs to the judge presiding over the central trial in the novel;
  • And some of that actually is illuminated by this novel, just how sometimes, you know, a collection of evidence can seem clear, but it's really not clear at all, and how through the process of cross-examination it can be tested and kind of dissected, and oftentimes it comes out in an entirely new light, and how witnesses can change their attitudes;
  • And the caller's question was about public view of any of this since there's no formal judicial review of it;
  • He's assisted by Dan "Lip" Lipranzer, a police officer who is investigating the details and evidence for Rusty;
  • And the number that they have successfully overturned, it's really staggering, and just terribly disturbing.

She has been bludgeoned, gashes in her head. She has been raped they believe. The most critical piece of evidence comes about when they find a sample of Rusty's sperm in the medical examination of the -- during the autopsy, and it is revealed to match A review of scott turows book presumed innocent blood type. Of course, all this mounts to circumstantial evidence that ties him to the crime.

Carpet fibers that match the fibers in his home, the latent fingerprints as you suggest, and the physical evidence from the rape. They do have a phone call from his home to her apartment. Things that tend to point to him at a time when the D. I mean, you two are both trained in the law.

Did Scott Turow give us an authentic view of what happens in the world of the law? You know, what you find when you're kind of in the caldron of a trial, is that there really -- it's very difficult oftentimes to identify clear unambiguous good guys and bad guys.

The facts, the individuals, the motivations, all those different things are just a lot harder to kind of grab onto and characterize than you might think. And I think that was actually probably one of Turow's main objectives in writing the book was to characterize the people and the institutions in which they operate that way because I think it's actually rather important for people to see that aspect… 11: When Scott Turow wrote this, he came on the program shortly thereafter and we talked a great deal about this notion of the ambiguity.

Do you feel that as well, Alafair? What this book does really well, although many of the very powerful scenes are in the courtroom, Turow, really shows that the power of the prosecutor is really unleashed outside of the courtroom. None of that is on the record.

There is no judge there. There's nobody to object to any of it. The power of a prosecutor is extremely broad and largely unreviewable, and you really see that, that Rusty probably wouldn't have even been charged is Horgan had won the election, right?

So it's which lawyer does that file land on, you know. Which lawyer gets that case can make all the difference, literally, in a life and death decision for somebody.

See a Problem?

Right from page one he draws that point when he says in the opening statement, he said, "when you've learned how to give an opening statement in a trial, he was told you must always point at the defendant.

If you don't have the courage to point, you can't expect the jury to have the courage to convict, and so I point. And I was reminded of, you know, unintelligiblewhich Turow brings up at the end, painting Rusty as a kind of Dreyfus character, that all it really takes is a pointing finger for someone's life to be completely overturned, and that is the power of the prosecutor.

And, of course, that's becoming more and more common.

There's an organization that probably a lot of your listeners are aware of called The Innocence Project, and it's devoted essentially to seeking to review, examine, and when necessary, contest those convictions. And the number that they have successfully overturned, it's really staggering, and just terribly disturbing.

And some of that actually is illuminated by this novel, just how sometimes, you know, a collection of evidence can seem clear, but it's really not clear at all, and how through the process of cross-examination it can be tested and kind of dissected, and oftentimes it comes out in an entirely new light, and how witnesses can change their attitudes.

Book review: Jonathan Yardley on "Innocent," by Scott Turow

He's a trial attorney and partner at the Washington law firm of Coburn and Greenbaum. We'll take a short break here. I look forward to hearing from you. If you don't want to know how this book ended, you ought to turn off your radio now because you're going to hear a lot more than you'd want to know if you had never read the book. And the reason I tell you this now is because of this email from Jerry in Kalamazoo, Mich.

I don't remember ever seeing another movie in which I did not respect any character. Every person in the movie betrayed himself or others in some way from the cheating husband and coworker, the sleazy attorney, the corrupt judge to the friend who hid the glass. And I can't say I like any of these characters and so I see his point very much.

And -- but I don't see it as a flaw in the novel. I a review of scott turows book presumed innocent it was interesting to read about those characters at a moment in their lives because most people do have moments in their lives when they are weak, right. And I think one of the things Turow does really well is display this complete obsession he has with this woman. Even in death he is still fantasizing about her. And it's not out of any great love.

It's this raw visceral sexual thing. It's not because he loved her. It doesn't come across as love to me. And yet I found I can still enjoy the book even though I don't necessarily like these emotions that he puts on the page. And when I thought back it seemed that all of them were -- she had had, you know, a kind of cold relationship a review of scott turows book presumed innocent her mother, you know, antagonistic. Her father had died when she was young.

Her -- we know that she has some kind of psychiatric manic depressive personality, bleak, dark forests of moods. You know, I had read it before and I remembered really liking the book. I thought that the courtroom scenes just were fabulous. But at the end when you find out that the wife has done it, to me that was actually -- the ending was something I had forgotten.

And I realized I had forgotten it 'cause I didn't like it. And I didn't like it because A. It was unexpected in a way that didn't really make sense.

The fact that he compromised his best friend, a cop, by telling him what had happened -- by telling him that his wife's complicity was outrageous because both of them could actually have been charged with obstruction of justice and should have been. The fact that, you know, he himself is an officer of the court did not reveal what he knew and yet was content to go -- not only become the acting prosecuting attorney, but then go on the bench in view of that was mind blowing.

What about these comments, Barry? What did you think of the women in this story? I actually thought it was fairly likely and I didn't have any trouble believing that this was something he might not want to divulge, that is to say the main character might not want to divulge until the very end.

I don't see too much of a difference in terms of gender attitudes on the part of the author. Everybody's deeply imperfect and that is troubling. So for -- you know, in terms of the way the caller reacted I think the impulse to take a shower is really not hard to understand. You know, there's a lot of bodily fluids here and there. You know, there's a grotesque murder and there's a lot of deceit and duplicity, basically on the part of all concerned. And so women and men, I think, kind of fall inside of that ambit and I think that's one of the strengths of the novel.

I mean, this is a woman who really is only talked about -- we only see her in death and she's only talked about by men in very sexualized ways.

Readers’ Review: “Presumed Innocent” By Scott Turow

She's depicted as a very calculating user. She's the kind of woman who says to him, you know, while they're together, does Barbara do this for you? And even her own son, right, they -- her own son doesn't seem to care that she's gone, right. He can barely call Carolyn his mother. He calls her Carolyn and winds up siding with Rusty and never seems to really feel any loss for her. And so I think that's the only way you can have a book with -- so in a way I'm criticizing the book I guess that she's depicted as being horrifically victimized.

Her murder is described in tremendous detail and she obviously experienced a very violent ending. And I'd just like to go back to that. They say at the end no one talked about pursuing the murder. And then one issue I would take with Turow, which disturbed me about the ending, is where he says that it would be practically impossible to try two people for the same crime.

And I would look to our two lawyers here, but as far as I can see I don't think that that's the case.


And it's sort of astonishing that this high profile case is just allowed to fade away without anyone pursuing further investigation. In other words, it's not like a double jeopardy problem.

It's more kind of a practical problem, if you will. I mean, if the state -- or in this case, you know, the county commits itself to a particular theory of the offense and that theory doesn't pan out, either a jury acquits or, in this case, the judge throws the case out before it even gets there, for the state then to kinda reassign blame to somebody else I think generally speaking would be just regarded as impractical, so very rare.

We've got a lot of callers. I want to open the phones here, 800-433-8850. First to Martha's Vineyard. How's the weather there? Wonderful time of the year to be here. Prosecutors have this unwilling power in the secrecy of developing cases. And particularly in the news lately it's about these plea bargains and the power that they wield. And my question goes to what are some of the solutions that have been thought about out there among the experts to wield this power in.

But the real work of what a D. How do we put some sunshine on this? There was actually an article in the New York Times not too long ago. Some -- this listener or others might remember it.