Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer / Edition 1

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At first, Mark Prothero, Defense Attorney for Gary Ridgway, thought: "This can't be the Green River Killer! He's too ordinary! He's too small. He's too calm. He's too polite! He can't possibly have murdered forty-nine women.  They can't be serious! They must have screwed up! I didn't realize then, but I was right.  Gary Ridgway hadn't killed forty-nine women.  He'd killed even more than that."

Soon, Mark Prothero faced the question: "How could you possibly defend the most prolific serial killer in United States history, the infamous Green River Killer?  If anyone deserved to be executed for his crimes, didn't he?"

Mark Prothero, co-lead defense attorney who helped save Gary Ridgway from the death sentence, has heard that question many times. Now he’s written a book that reveals the true, inside story of exactly how an idealistic public defender, high school swim coach, husband, and dad could bring himself to spend many months of close confinement with a man who brutally murdered at least 75 young women, often in the act of sex. Defending Gary shows how Prothero could reconcile these monstrous acts knowing the reality of this unassuming fellow Gary Ridgway, a mild-mannered, church-going, devoted husband, father, and former Navy man, with an IQ of around 82 and a longtime job as a truck painter from Auburn, Washington, near Seattle.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
No defense attorney could imagine a more loathsome assignment. In November 2001, Washington State lawyer Mark Prothero was ordered to defend Gary Ridgway, America's most prolific serial killer. Exoneration was out of the question: DNA had already linked the defendant to several victims and the D.A. was preparing to link the accused "Green River Killer" to more than 70 murders of prostitutes and runaways. Nor could the defendant offer Prothero any hope: In hundreds of hours of interviews, he sheepishly confessed to strangling more women than he could remember, sometimes simply to retrieve the money he had paid for sex. Defending Gary is both unnerving and revelatory; it tells as much about a dedicated public servant as it is about his deeply damaged client.
Publishers Weekly
After a two-decade investigation, Gary Ridgway, America's "most prolific serial killer," was arrested in November 2001. Prothero became one of his attorneys. A Seattle-area DNA expert who emerges as an affable and humble family man, Prothero argued successfully against the death penalty for Ridgway. Aided by veteran journalist Smith (The Search for the Green River Killer), Prothero probes the psyche of a monster who appeared to be a devoted husband, son and brother. Did Ridgway's mother corrupt him as a teenager when she washed his genitals after he wet the bed, or did years of inhaling paint fumes on the job impair his judgment? Prothero, who confronted the banality of evil when his miserly client explained that he killed some of his prostitute victims just to get his $20 back, concludes that Ridgway killed between 48 and 71 prostitutes to gain power and control over women and authority figures. The bird's-eye view into the legal wrangling is sometimes obscured by repetitious and unwieldy text, and it's clear that Prothero and Smith aren't in the same league as Norman Mailer, Mikal Gilmore and Ann Rule, who famously humanized Gary Gilmore and Ted Bundy. And unlike in Rule's Green River, Running Red, the victims here are ciphers. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Defense attorney Prothero joins Smith (The Search for the Green River Killer) to give us a detailed account of the trial and conviction of Gary Ridgway in the Green River killings around Seattle, which occurred over approximately 30 years, ending in the 1990s. In late 2001 police arrested Ridgway, a longtime suspect in the case. Prothero became his lead defense attorney shortly afterward. Originally he was skeptical about Ridgway's guilt, but physical evidence, including DNA analysis, proved that Ridgway had killed at least 48 women, mainly prostitutes, and may have murdered as many as 71 between 1982 and 1989. Prothero's tactic changed from proving Ridgway's innocence to sparing him from the death penalty. The authors present the story in a well-paced, straightforward manner and provide sturdy insight into this complex case. Particularly interesting are details about the infighting among members of the Ridgway defense team. Also good is the discussion on how Seattle and Washington state politics shaped the trial. In November 2003, Ridgway was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Lib., Parkersburg Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787981068
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/19/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Prothero (Kent, WA) was a lead defense attorney  for Gary Ridgway ("the Green River Killer"). He spent several years and thousands of hours with Ridgway, working also with the prosecution and police in the field, negotiating a complex process which gradually revealed the truth about the mind and deeds of this most prolific serial killer in US history, and also brought a just closure to the case which gave the victims' families the information they needed and put the killer in prison for the rest of his life.

Carlton Smith (South Pasadena, CA) is an award-winning journalist who has worked for The Los Angeles Times, Willamette Week, and the Seattle Times. Smith was a 1988 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting for his work on the Green River Murder Case. His book, The Search for the Green River Killer, written BEFORE Gary Ridgway was apprehended, was a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award of the New York Public Library.
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Table of Contents


About Our Sources.

Part One: The News.

Part Two: The Team.

Part Three: The Deal.

Part Four: The Talk.

Part Five: The Truth.


About the Authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2006

    Unbearable Lightness of Being A Defense Attorney

    Any defense attorney who finds room to include more than one full-size photo of himself in swim trunks while consigning the photos of some of the Green River killer's victims to thumbnail-sized rows squeezed into two horrifying pages (noting that several other victims' photos have simply been left out) is perhaps not as much a victim of bad media and resentful families as he depicts himself here. The very premise of the book seems to be that it is Prothero and the Green River Killer himself -- and not the raped and murdered women -- who are to be pitied for being misunderstood. Morally repulsive and embarassingly self-indulgent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2006


    The person who wrote the last review must have been a cop. I've worked as a legal assistant for criminal defense attorneys for several years. If you want to know what it is like to defend the accused (innocent or not) then read this book. Mr. Prothero doesn't hold anything back, including the dark humor that develops around the office. Very interesting details about the case and about his work as a defense attorney. Also, Mr. Prothero constantly mentions the victims and their families. Defense attorneys never forget the victims, contrary to popular belief. I heard Mr. Prothero speak at Gonzaga University and for most of the presentation, he had the pictures of the victims behind him. Thank you, Mr. Prothero, for writing this book, and for your committment to fighting for justice.

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