Monday, June 3, 2013


Mistrial by Mark Geragos and Pat Harris
Penguin Group; 4/11/2013
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781592407729


A searing and entertaining manifesto on the ills of the criminal justice system from two of America's most prominent defense attorneys.

From the rise of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle to the television ratings bonanza of the O.J. Simpson trial, a perfect storm of media coverage has given the public an unprecedented look inside the courtroom, kicking off popular courtroom shows and TV legal commentary that further illuminate how the criminal justice system operates. Or has it?

In Mistrial, Mark Geragos and Pat Harris debunk the myths of judges as Solomon-like figures, jurors as impartial arbiters of the truth, and
prosecutors as super-ethical heroes.Mistrial draws the curtain on the court's ugly realities-from stealth jurors who secretly swing for a conviction, to cops who regularly lie on the witness stand, to defense attorneys terrified of going to trial. Ultimately, the authors question whether a justice system model drawn up two centuries ago before blogs and television is still viable today.
In the aftermath of recent high-profile cases, the flaws in America's justice system are more glaring than ever. Geragos and Harris are legal experts and prominent criminal defense attorneys who have worked on everything from celebrity media-circuses-having represented clients like Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, Scott Peterson, Chris Brown, Susan MacDougal, and Gary Condit-to equally compelling cases defending individuals desperate to avoid the spotlight.

Shining unprecedented light on what really goes on in the courtroom, Mistrial is an enjoyable, fun look at a system that rarely lets you see
behind the scenes.

My Thoughts:
Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works... and Sometimes Doesn't is written by two leading defense attorneys, Mark Geragos and Pat Harris. Geragos and Harris have a long list of well known people they have represented: Susan McDougal, Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Gary Condit, Mike Tyson, Winona Ryder and Chris Brown, to name a few. Mistrial is an inside look at how the system works, how Geragos and Harris feel about it's flaws and failures based on their years of trial experience, and many anecdotes from their years of experience.
In Mistrial Geragos and Harris have organized their book so chapter cover all the major areas of criminal-justice system: defense attorneys, clients, prosecutors, judges, police officers, jurors and journalists. At the end of the book, Geragos and Harris do offer a list of suggestions for reform, based on their years of experience, that could make the system work more smoothly and fairly.
What Mistrial offers to a lay person (me) is a glimpse into some well known cases and how the criminal justice system works - or doesn't - based on many factors, including pre-trial publicity and the media hype surrounding a case.They feel the current criminal justice system is biased toward the prosecution - and tactics used by the prosecutors magnify this advantage. Adding to this built in advantage are other problems, such as judges ruling based on their upcoming re-election, problems with media coverage influencing the jury selection, and police lying to improve their case. 
Some of the observations Geragos and Harris make and conclusions they draw are obvious. Media hype and personalities devoted to just creating that frenzied coverage have been around for a long time. While it's true that they are more prevalent now, they have always been there. For me, since Geragos and Harris are based in Los Angeles, they are privy to much inside information and represent clients that are obviously out of my circle of experience.
By their own admission, Mistrial is not a scholarly look at criminal justice reform and Geragos and Harris never claim that it will be. What they wanted to do was give the layman an entertaining look inside the system at the players and some of the problems from the point of view of the defense. Aside from a few extreme rants, Mistrial is interesting, sometimes funny, and very entertaining while making some serious points.
Highly recommended - for the inside look
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the Penguin Group via Netgalley for review purposes.

No comments: