Case of a Lifetime: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Story [NOOK Book]

Overview


A recent study estimates that thousands of innocent people are wrongfully imprisoned each year in the United States. Some are exonerated through DNA evidence, but many more languish in prison because their convictions were based on faulty eyewitness accounts and no DNA is available. Prominent criminal lawyer and law professor Abbe Smith weaves together real life cases to show what it is like to champion the rights of the accused. Smith describes the moral and ethical dilemmas of representing the guilty and the ...

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Case of a Lifetime: A Criminal Defense Lawyer's Story

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Overview


A recent study estimates that thousands of innocent people are wrongfully imprisoned each year in the United States. Some are exonerated through DNA evidence, but many more languish in prison because their convictions were based on faulty eyewitness accounts and no DNA is available. Prominent criminal lawyer and law professor Abbe Smith weaves together real life cases to show what it is like to champion the rights of the accused. Smith describes the moral and ethical dilemmas of representing the guilty and the weighty burden of fighting for the innocent, including the victorious story of how she helped free a woman wrongly imprisoned for nearly three decades.

For fans of Law and Order and investigative news programs like 20/20Case of a Lifetime is a chilling look at what really determines a person's innocence.



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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Smith, a law professor at Georgetown, has defended thousands of clients, but it was her first client, Patsy Kelly, who stood out most. Smith was still a law student when they met in 1980, and Kelly was serving a life sentence for driving the getaway car in a felony-murder. The conviction was based on eyewitness testimony that was riddled with inconsistencies. After a series of interviews with Kelly, Smith became convinced that she was innocent and worked doggedly for the next 25 years to free her. Kelly was released in 2005, after serving 28 years, but it was a parole and not through Smith's efforts. The book's strength is Smith's openness about her life as a criminal defense attorney and her sophisticated thinking about the moral and ethical dilemmas criminal lawyers routinely navigate, such as how to represent the guilty, how far to go to ensure their clients' freedom and the ultimate question, what is their responsibility to the truth? Aspiring lawyers and anyone interested in the criminal justice system will benefit from reading Smith's account. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This is the story of a woman convicted of a crime she did not commit. It is also the story of a dedicated criminal defense lawyer who offers a real-life look at the American justice system. Smith (dir., Criminal Justice Clinic & law, Georgetown Univ. Law Sch.) was a law student interested in criminal defense when she met Patsy Kelly Jarrett, a North Carolina woman convicted as an accomplice in the 1973 murder of a gas station attendant in Sherrill, NY. Smith spent more than 20 years working pro bono to prove that her client was innocent and was nowhere near the scene of the crime when it occurred. While telling the story of Patsy Kelly Jarrett, Smith also tells the story of her own career, describing what it is like to defend clients accused of crimes and offering surprising details about the inner workings of a prison. The author also tells a personal story of how Patsy Kelly Jarrett became part of her life. The facts of Jarrett's conviction on a questionable eyewitness identification are frightening, yet this book is also touching and even funny. Ultimately, the story of Jarrett's parole from prison in 2005 after serving 28 years is profoundly moving. Recommended for all libraries.
—Becky Kennedy

Kirkus Reviews
Criminal-defense attorney Smith (Law/Georgetown Univ.) describes her attempt to liberate a wrongfully imprisoned woman. The author was a second-year law student in 1980 when she met convicted felon Kelly Jarrett under the auspices of New York University's free Prison Law Clinic. Smith's narrative portrays a sweet Southern girl ensnared by the New York penal system. North Carolina native Kelly was 21 in August 1973, when she took a trip to Utica, N.Y., with gay buddy Billy Ronald, whom she let use her car while she was dallying with a new girlfriend. Naive, unsuspecting Kelly had no idea that Billy Ronald was a career criminal, she subsequently told her lawyers. Two and a half years later, she was arrested after an eyewitness positively identified Kelly as present at the scene of the robbery and brutal murder of a teenaged gas-station attendant in Utica. Offered a reduced sentence if she pleaded guilty to robbery, Kelly staunchly insisted on her innocence and refused; she was convicted as an accomplice to murder and got life in prison. The author worked on Kelly's appeal while at the Prison Law Clinic, but lost touch after graduating. In 1993, now a full-fledged public defender, Smith met Jean Harris, who had been serving 12 years for murder in the same jail as Kelly and urged the lawyer to contact her former client. After their reunion, Smith became an amazingly tireless advocate, making it her personal mission to free Kelly via executive clemency. Her dense narrative weaves Kelly's plight with theories on innocence and "the truth," case studies, a discussion of the significance of criminal defenders and an examination of the various ethical dilemmas they face. Kelly's case was one ofmany criminal convictions contingent upon a "single, shaky eyewitness," she reminds us; new policies have since been drafted to lessen the likelihood of false identifications. Kelly was finally released in 2005, after 28 years, six months, in jail. A captivating, emotionally intense investigation of the complicated relationship between truth and the justice system. Agent: Peter Matson/Sterling Lord Literistic
From the Publisher
“The book's strength is Smith's openness about her life as a criminal defense attorney and her sophisticated thinking about the moral and ethical dilemmas criminal lawyers routinely navigate, such as how to represent the guilty, how far to go to ensure their clients' freedom and the ultimate question, what is their responsibility to the truth? Aspiring lawyers and anyone interested in the criminal justice system will benefit from reading Smith's account.”—Publishers Weekly

“A captivating, emotionally intense investigation of the complicated relationship between truth and the justice system.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"This is an extraordinary, profoundly moving book. Abbe Smith tells the story of Patsy Kelly Jarrett, who spent 28 years in prison for a crime she did not commit—and tells her own story. She was Kelly's volunteer lawyer, and over those years she became Kelly's desperate friend. I know of no other book that says as much about a defense lawyer's motivations, self-doubt, frustrations. I finished it with tears in my eyes." —Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Freedom for the Thought that We Hate: a Biography of the First Amendment

"This is a substantial work: intelligent, subtle, and honest. I couldn't put the book down. Abbe Smith examines a range of complex issues with insight and wit - the challenge innocence poses in a system focused on processing the guilty, the complicated relationship between truth and proof, the impossibility and importance of hope for long-time prisoners, the struggle for meaning for anyone who ventures into the criminal justice system. The way the author turns her skepticism on herself, without mercy, is especially engaging and impressive. In the end, the book transcends lawyers and clients, guilt and innocence, crime and punishment. It is a testament to what can happen when one person reaches out to another in need."—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

“A wonderful writer … Clear transparent style in telling of things [that are] so complicated and deep. Unaffected, unpretentious to an amazing degree. A real feminist book—as well as a defender story.”—Barbara Babcock, Judge John Crown Professor of Law, Emerita, Stanford University Law School

"Less a story of law than of two extraordinary people. Kelly Jarrett had barely left adolescence when she found herself spending the rest of her youth and much of her adult life behind bars. And yet she managed to preserve her sense of self. Smith was the attorney who, even as she pursued a glittering career that included teaching at Harvard Law, still had to help free Jarrett.... A moving and important book. We're bombarded with TV dramas about cops and crime and the pursuit of justice. "Case of a Lifetime" offers a disconcerting look at the realities that determine why some people walk free and others spend their lives in prison." —Boston Globe

"A stunningly honest book. In this compelling story of her 25-year fight on behalf of an innocent woman imprisoned for murder, Abbe Smith candidly and dramatically portrays the frustrations and triumphs, ugliness and nobility of criminal defense. You will never read a truer, more informative, or more moving account of what we call criminal justice." —Monroe H. Freedman, Professor of Law (former Lichtenstein Distinguished Professor of Legal Ethics), Hofstra University School of Law.

“As they say on dust jackets, 'I couldn’t put it down.' It is a heartwarming story and also an outrageous one.”—Robert Condlin, Professor of Law, University of Maryland

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230613874
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/22/2008
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 678,142
  • File size: 260 KB

Meet the Author


Abbe Smith, director of the Criminal Justice Clinic and professor of law at Georgetown Law School, is the recognized expert on legal ethics. She is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Daily News, National Law Journal, and The Atlantic Monthly. She lives in Washington, D.C.  
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Table of Contents


Prologue * Innocence * Truth * Hope * Freedom
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