Tag Archives: true crime

Illusion of Justice by Jerome F. Buting

Illusion of Justice: Inside Making a Murderer and America’s Broken System by Jerome F. Buting. February 28, 2017. Harper, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062569318.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

Interweaving his account of the Steven Avery trial at the heart of Making a Murderer with other high profile cases from his criminal defense career, attorney Jerome F. Buting explains the flaws in America’s criminal justice system and lays out a provocative, persuasive blue-print for reform.

Over his career, Jerome F. Buting has spent hundreds of hours in courtrooms representing defendants in criminal trials. When he agreed to join Dean Strang as co-counsel for the defense in Steven A. Avery vs. State of Wisconsin, he knew a tough fight lay ahead. But, as he reveals in Illusion of Justice, no-one could have predicted just how tough and twisted that fight would be—or that it would become the center of the documentary Making a Murderer, which made Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey household names and thrust Buting into the spotlight.

Buting’s powerful, riveting boots-on-the-ground narrative of Avery’s and Dassey’s cases becomes a springboard to examine the shaky integrity of law enforcement and justice in the United States, which Buting has witnessed firsthand for more than 35 years. From his early career as a public defender to his success overturning wrongful convictions working with the Innocence Project, his story provides a compelling expert view into the high-stakes arena of criminal defense law; the difficulties of forensic science; and a horrifying reality of biased interrogations, coerced or false confessions, faulty eyewitness testimony, official misconduct, and more.

Combining narrative reportage with critical commentary and personal reflection, Buting explores his professional and personal motivations, career-defining cases—including his shocking fifteen-year-long fight to clear the name of another man wrongly accused and convicted of murder—and what must happen if our broken system is to be saved. Taking a place beside Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow, Illusion of Justice is a tour-de-force from a relentless and eloquent advocate for justice who is determined to fulfill his professional responsibility and, in the face of overwhelming odds, make America’s judicial system work as it is designed to do.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Strong sexual themes; Criminal culture

 

Subject Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
A defense attorney from the trial made famous in Making a Murderer tells his story. From the beginning of his “Opening Statement,” first-time author Buting commands attention with his account of Steven Avery’s trial. The author recounts how, as he sat in the office of his co-counsel, Dean Strang, they received word that Avery’s nephew had confessed to helping Avery commit murder. It is in the context of this first phone call that Buting makes clear his passion as a defense lawyer and his justifiable anger with a system that does not, as he points out later, consider those accused of crimes as “innocent until proven guilty.” Avery had already spent 18 years in prison for a sexual assault that DNA evidence later proved he didn’t commit. Once charged with murder, Buting and Strang came to his aid believing that local law enforcement officials were biased against him. The author uses his expertise to make a convincing case, laying out shoddy police work, strange coincidences, and impossible-to-believe evidence that will have even the most anti–conspiracy theory readers thinking that it could have been a frame job. But he doesn’t stop with Avery’s case. Buting gives supporting evidence from other cases he’s worked or knows well, showing consistently how easy it is for police and prosecutors to fixate on the wrong suspect in a rush to solve crimes or without noticing their own bias. To his credit, while the author cuts the justice system no slack for its deep-seated problems, he also makes sure to repeat that it is a systemic issue and that most police, prosecutors, and judges are not out to hurt suspects. Without muddying the waters with excessive legalese, Buting presents a compelling portrait of the mechanisms of building a murder defense. A fantastic look behind the scenes of the U.S. justice system.

About the Author

Jerome F. Buting is a shareholder in the Brookfield, Wisconsin, law firm of Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C. He received his undergraduate degree in forensic studies from Indiana University and his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was board director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, past president of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and chair of the Wisconsin State Bar Criminal Law Section. He lectures worldwide and is frequently sought for his legal expertise. He is also the recipient of the Fierce Advocate Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the James Joyce Award from University College Dublin, and the Trinity College Dublin Praeses Elit Award.

His website is www.buting.com/Attorneys/Jerome-F-Buting.shtml.

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The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. November 1, 2016. Berkley, 304 p. ISBN: 9781592409006.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 1200.

The thrilling, true-life account of the FBI’s hunt for the ingenious traitor Brian Regan—known as the Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.

Before Edward Snowden’s infamous data breach, the largest theft of government secrets was committed by an ingenious traitor whose intricate espionage scheme and complex system of coded messages were made even more baffling by his dyslexia. His name is Brian Regan, but he came to be known as The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.

In December of 2000, FBI Special Agent Steven Carr of the bureau’s Washington, D.C., office received a package from FBI New York: a series of coded letters from an anonymous sender to the Libyan consulate, offering to sell classified United States intelligence. The offer, and the threat, were all too real. A self-proclaimed CIA analyst with top secret clearance had information about U.S. reconnaissance satellites, air defense systems, weapons depots, munitions factories, and underground bunkers throughout the Middle East.

Rooting out the traitor would not be easy, but certain clues suggested a government agent with a military background, a family, and a dire need for money. Leading a diligent team of investigators and code breakers, Carr spent years hunting down a dangerous spy and his cache of stolen secrets.

In this fast-paced true-life spy thriller, Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reveals how the FBI unraveled Regan’s strange web of codes to build a case against a man who nearly collapsed America’s military security.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
In his first book, Bhattacharjee, who writes for Science, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, will leave readers wondering whether classified information from the U.S. government is always vulnerable to being sold, for the right price. Before Edward Snowden’s data breaching or Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, Brian Regan, a former American intelligence specialist, committed one of the most massive acts of espionage in American history, by selling U.S. classified and secret information to foreign governments. But, because Regan was arrested shortly before September 11, 2001, Bhattacharjee argues, his extraordinary story has never fully been told. Bhattacharjee now writes the true tale of the dyslexic man who became known as “the spy who couldn’t spell” and the FBI special agent who, along with a team of experts, identified Regan’s illegal activities, tracked his steps, and broke into his coded messages and letters (which were often riddled with misspellings). Readers interested in spy thrillers, cybercryptology, and the history of U.S. espionage will find this book to be both entertaining and helpful in understanding today’s complex landscape of leaked classified information.

Publishers Weekly (September 19, 2016)
Journalist Bhattacharjee skillfully touches all the bases in recounting the story of Brian Regan, who pilfered reams of top secret information from his job at the National Reconnaissance Office and offered to sell them to foreign governments. Regan stole more secrets than Edward Snowden would over a decade later, but few have heard of him because he was quickly caught and imprisoned. Bhattacharjee covers Regan’s unsatisfactory life. He was mired in debt and unpopular at the NRO. In 1999, after studying the techniques of other spies, Regan concocted a bizarre scheme. The result: in 2000 the Libyan consulate received three separate letters containing a sample of secret documents and pages of codes that, when deciphered, described his offer. Sadly for Regan, an informant forwarded them to the FBI, who soon identified him through bad spelling and several clumsy errors. Regan’s arrest was straightforward. Far more difficult was recovering his immense buried cache of documents and other materials, because he had forgotten many of the complex codes needed to locate them. Readers may skim the explanations of Regan’s codes, but they will thoroughly enjoy this fast-moving account of a failed spy who, despite his incompetence, easily filched thousands of secrets.

About the Author

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is an award-winning writer whose features and essays on espionage, cybercrime, science and medicine have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Wired and other U.S. magazines. Yudhijit spent 11 years as a staff writer at the weekly journal Science, writing about neuroscience, astronomy and a variety of other topics in research and science policy. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series. Yudhijit has an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, and a master’s in journalism from The Ohio State University. He lives in a suburb of Washington, D.C., with his wife, his two children and a big red dog.

His website is www.yudhijit.com.

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Blood, Bullets, and Bones by Bridget Heos

Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA by Bridget Heos. October 4, 2016. Balzer + Bray, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062387622.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Ever since the introduction of DNA testing, forensic science has been in the forefront of the public’s imagination, thanks especially to popular television shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. But forensic analysis has been practiced for thousands of years. Ancient Chinese detectives studied dead bodies for signs of foul play, and in Victorian England, officials used crime scene photography and criminal profiling to investigate the Jack the Ripper murders. In the intervening decades, forensic science has evolved to use the most cutting-edge, innovative techniques and technologies.

In this book, acclaimed author Bridget Heos uses real-life cases to tell the fascinating history of modern forensic science, from the first test for arsenic poisoning to fingerprinting, firearm and blood spatter analysis, DNA evidence, and all the important milestones in between. By turns captivating and shocking, Blood, Bullets, and Bones demonstrates the essential role forensic science has played in our criminal justice system

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Descriptions of violent deaths; Prostitution

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Ever heard of the Styrian defense? How about Bertillonage? Heos’ latest covers these and more, examining forensic science from its debatable conception (a 221 BCE ancient Chinese “crime-scene handbook”) to “the dawn of DNA evidence.” Through arsenic poisoning, autopsies, fingerprint evidence, and criminal profiling, Heos sheds light not only on forensic innovations but also forensic imperfections, often embedding research with court cases that are as historically crucial as they are ambiguous. The trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, for example, relied heavily upon two decidedly unreliable elements: eyewitness testimonies and incomplete firearm analysis. Investigators in the Samuel Sheppard case, on the other hand—where blood spatter tests were prominently employed for the first time—were scrutinized for their preferential treatment of a wealthy, white defendant. Punctuated by fascinating photos, a smattering of educational asides, and astute pop-culture references (Dexter, Les Misérables, The Silence of the Lambs), and followed by a glossary of key terms, this is sure to appeal to wannabe FBI agents, budding history buffs, armchair detectives, and everyone in between.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2016)
Thanks to such popular television shows as Bones and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, forensic science is typically thought of as a modern, cutting-edge dimension of criminal investigation, but this fascinating history reveals that it has been practiced for thousands of years.Two thousand years ago, Chinese coroners determined murder as cause of death through the examination of victims’ bodies. The ancient Chinese also pioneered fingerprint evidence. The first poison test was used in 1751 to prove that Englishwoman Mary Blandy murdered her father with arsenic. Heos adeptly uses many such real-life cases to chronicle the history and evolution of forensic science. England was the first country to require all coroners to be medical doctors, expanding the field of forensic pathology. English investigators also pioneered the use of firearm evidence to solve a 1794 murder. The rises of other investigative methods, such as criminal profiling, DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, and victimology, are examined in the context of such famous investigations as the Jack the Ripper murders, the Sacco and Vanzetti case, and the murder of the Romanovs in 1918. Heos also takes pains to discuss how often DNA analysis has been used to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Vivid and occasionally gruesome but always engrossing. (photos, glossary, notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Bridget Heos is the author of I, Fly, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas, Mustache Baby, illustrated by Joy Ang, and the sequel, Mustache Baby Meets His Match. She has also written more than 80 nonfiction children’s titles, including Stronger Than Steel, with photographs by Andy Comins. The Scientists in the Field  and I, Fly were Junior Library Guild selections, and Mustache Baby has won several state awards. Bridget lives in Kansas City with her husband and four children.

Her website is www.authorbridgetheos.com.

Teacher Resources

Collection of Forensic Science Lesson Plans

Forensic Detectives Activities

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American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

American Heiress: the Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin. August 2, 2016. Doubleday, 384 p. ISBN: 9780385536714.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile 1110.

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre “Tania.”

The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing—the Hearst family trying to secure Patty’s release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the bank security cameras capturing “Tania” wielding a machine gun during a robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty’s year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circus-like trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term “Stockholm syndrome” entered the lexicon.

The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors’ crusade.

Or did she?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Drugs; Alcohol; Criminal culture

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
On February 4, 1974, two women and one man burst into the Berkeley, California, apartment that Patricia Hearst, heir to the fortune of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, shared with her fiancé, Steven Weed. They clubbed Weed and dragged a thrashing, screaming, 19-year-old Hearst into the trunk of their car. This was the start of a prolonged, violent, and sometimes absurd cross-country odyssey that led from cramped, filthy safe houses to isolated rural farmhouses. The kidnapping, travels, and trials of Hearst and her “companions” would draw in a variety of willing and unwilling characters, including a radical sports journalist; a greedy, alcoholic, but brilliant defense attorney; and even a high-school baseball player. The saga transfixed the nation as key moments played out on national television, including a horrific shootout and fire in which some of the kidnappers died, and during which Hearst, rebellious and unhappy about her impending marriage, appeared to embrace the cause espoused by her abductors, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. With access to previously off-limit documents, best-selling Toobin (The Oath, 2012), New Yorker staff writer and senior legal analyst for CNN, has written an outstandingly detailed and insightful account of the Hearst case and its impact.

Library Journal (August 1, 2016)
The bones of Patty Hearst’s story are relatively well known-pampered heiress kidnapped by radicals joins their ranks, famously helping them rob a bank at gunpoint-but as Toobin (The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson) here shows, the details that flesh out the saga of Hearst and the group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) are weirder and more compelling than any work of fiction. For instance, while the group was among the most wanted in America, SLA leader Donald DeFreeze decided to recruit new members by going door to door in San Francisco’s Western Addition Neighborhood. (Not only did no one he spoke to report him to the police, but he actually brought on board people who would turn out to be crucial allies.) The narrative is peppered with appearances by such recognizable names as Jim Jones, Joan Baez, future judge of O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial Lance Ito, and Sara Jane Moore, who would later attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Toobin’s meticulous research is the book’s bedrock, but his flair for dramatic storytelling makes it a pleasure to read. Though the author never states directly whether he believes Hearst’s conversion was real, he provides all of the pieces needed for readers to assemble the puzzle for themselves. VERDICT An essential purchase. Stephanie Klose, Library Journal.

About the Author

Jeffrey Toobin is a staff writer at The New Yorker, senior legal analyst at CNN, and the bestselling author of The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, The Nine, Too Close to Call, A Vast Conspiracy, The Run of His Life and Opening Arguments. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, he lives with his family in New York.

His website is www.jeffreytoobin.com.

 

Teacher Resources

American Heiress Discussion Questions

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst Full HD Documentary

Patty Hearst Case on the FBI’s Famous Cases

Around the Web

American Heiress on Amazon

American Heires on JLG

American Heiress on Goodreads