Dying Declaration

( 8 )

Overview

Thomas and Theresa Hammonds believe in tough love and old-fashioned discipline. They do not believe in doctors. When their controversial beliefs lead to personal tragedy, the Hammonds face heartbreaking loss, a crisis of faith—and a charge of negligent homicide by a relentless prosecutor. Defending Thomas and Theresa is freewheeling lawyer Charles Arnold. He believes in grace and mercy, but nothing in his colorful past has prepared him for the challenges of this shocking case, or for the dangerous conspiracy at ...

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Overview

Thomas and Theresa Hammonds believe in tough love and old-fashioned discipline. They do not believe in doctors. When their controversial beliefs lead to personal tragedy, the Hammonds face heartbreaking loss, a crisis of faith—and a charge of negligent homicide by a relentless prosecutor. Defending Thomas and Theresa is freewheeling lawyer Charles Arnold. He believes in grace and mercy, but nothing in his colorful past has prepared him for the challenges of this shocking case, or for the dangerous conspiracy at its heart. Tyndale House Publishers

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Singer, who won the 2003 Christy Award in the suspense category for Directed Verdict, hits pay dirt again with this taut, intelligent thriller for the Christian market. When fundamentalist Christians Thomas and Theresa Hammond decide not to take their desperately ill toddler to the emergency room and rely solely on healing through prayer, tragedy ensues. They are indicted on murder charges and team up with maverick defense attorney Charles Arnold, who is assisted by Nikki Moreno from Directed Verdict, a sexy, manipulative, Erin Brockovitch of a legal assistant who talks tough but has a heart of gold. As the plot unfolds, readers learn about complications in the case that may lead to the Hammonds' acquittal: the ambitious prosecutor has unscrupulously engineered evidence and carried on a clandestine affair with a key witness, while another witness may have manufactured testimony to ensure a particular outcome to the case. The novel isn't perfect; the first half is a bit slow, and the Hammonds' five-year-old son, Tiger, is implausibly wise and precocious. The "Barracuda" (prosecuting attorney Rebecca Crawford) is disappointingly one-dimensional, a stereotyped villainess who cares for nothing but furthering her career. Still, this is a groundbreaking book for the Christian market, with otherwise complex and well-drawn characters, a strong but subtle approach to matters of faith, and ingenious plotting, particularly in the last 50 pages. Singer is clearly an up-and-coming novelist to watch. (May 18) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The author of the Christy Award-winning Directed Verdict takes on the controversial subject of parents whose religious beliefs prohibit using medical science even to save a child's life. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781414331553
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/22/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,118,401
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Randy Singer previous books include Irreparable Harm and Directed Verdict, a previous winner of the Christy Award for best suspense novel. A veteran trial lawyer, he now serves as Vice-President of the North American Mission Board and as a Legal Advisor for the American Center for Law and Justice; formerly, he was a law school professor and head of the trial section in a large Virginia firm.
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 7

They had not heard anything for almost two hours, and it worried Thomas. He was tired of the sterile ICU waiting room, the yellow plastic furniture, and the two-month-old magazines. He had seen at least two other families come and go since midnight, yet here he sat, knowing nothing and fearing the worst.

The operation had started at 11:00 but had not gone well. Dr. Armistead came by at 12:30, very businesslike, to inform them that the appendix had been removed but that Joshua was not yet out of the woods. He referred to multiple system failures or something like that. Thomas had not been allowed to see Josh. Armistead mentioned consulting with some kind of liver or kidney specialists. How those organs got involved, Thomas did not know. But it didn’t sound good.

Was God punishing him for taking Josh to the hospital? Had Thomas failed in his ultimate test of faith? If Josh didn’t pull through, would there be anyone to blame except a father who abandoned his deeply held beliefs when the pressure was on? How could God honor such flimsy faith? For the last hour Thomas had been beating himself up as he wrestled with these questions in prayer. He still had no answers and no sense of assurance that Josh would be okay. More than anything else, he just wanted to be with Josh and resented the doctors for keeping him away from his own son.

At least Tiger had finally run out of gas. He was sound asleep on the couch, mouth wide open and clinging to his blankie. Stinky had curled up on Thomas’s lap and also slept soundly. She was getting heavier by the minute, but Thomas was not about to put her down. He found security in the warmth of her touch.

Theresa was not sleeping. She was up and down, roaming the hallways and pacing the waiting room. She would alternate between unjustified optimism and unwarranted pessimism. Right now, she was just sitting and staring. It had been at least five minutes since she had speculated about why they had not heard anything for so long. It had been fifteen minutes since she had stopped an ICU nurse in the hallway, pressing for information that was not forthcoming.

What else could they do but wait?

Though Thomas and Theresa had been glancing at the doorway for most of the night, Armistead somehow entered unnoticed. When Thomas caught Armistead in his peripheral vision, the doctor was already standing a few steps inside the room, in his white lab coat, looking grim. Thomas knew. Even before Armistead spoke, Thomas knew.

Theresa jumped out of her seat, moving toward the doctor.

“How’s he doing?” she asked.

Thomas tensed but did not move. He didn’t want to shake Stinky from his lap.

“It’s not good,” said Armistead evenly, professionally. “We did everything we could, but he didn’t make it, he just–”

“No!” screamed Theresa. “No! Not my Joshie…” She collapsed on the floor, head in her hands, her words drowned out by her own sobs.

Thomas stood and placed Stinky softly in the chair. Stinky woke, looked confused, and blinked the sleep out of her eyes. “What’s the matter?” she asked.

“It’ll be okay,” Thomas mumbled as he tried to absorb the unthinkable. A numbness washed over him. He sat down on the floor next to Theresa and wrapped his arms around her. She buried her head on his shoulder.

Tiger, who had been startled awake by his mother’s scream, rubbed his eyes and hopped down from the couch. He walked quickly toward his mom and dad and shot a mean glance at Dr. Armistead. He took his special blankie, his comforter, and spread it across his mom’s shoulders. Then he reached out and hugged his mommy’s neck. Thomas embraced them both in a three-person hug. In a flash, Stinky joined them and made it four.

“Is Joshie okay?” Stinky whispered into her daddy’s ear.

Thomas couldn’t find the words or the heart to tell her.

CHAPTER 8

State law required that he report suspected child abuse. He had no choice in the matter. And so, after working a double shift, Sean Armistead reached for his cell phone while driving home, called directory assistance, and got the number for the Virginia Beach Department of Child Protective Services. He stayed on the line as the directory-assistance computer dialed the number.

It did not surprise him to hear the answering machine kick in. He did not really expect anyone to be at the office at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. He left a message, then speed-dialed another number. He counted three rings before it was answered.

“Hello,” said a gruff female voice at the other end. The voice belonged to Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Rebecca Crawford.

“I thought you’d be at the office by now. You’re slipping.”

“Sean?”

“Your friendly neighborhood doc with your weekend wake-up call.”

“Fat chance. I’ve already finished my workout. It’s almost lunchtime for me, Doc.”

“You’ve got to get a life.”

“I’ve got one–remember? I put the guys behind bars that you stitch up and throw back out on the streets.”

As he listened to her on the phone, she crystallized in his mind. Thirtyeight and fighting the years with every ounce of her strength. Short, blonde hair with a layered cut, the roots beginning to turn brown. Tanned skin abused by too many long summers in the beach sun. The first signs of wrinkles had been ironed out with a facelift at age thirty-five. She had never admitted it to Sean, but he had his sources. She was not a natural athlete but worked hard to whip her body into shape, with fairly impressive results. She was only five-five, with big bones and a slow metabolism. She had to stay disciplined to keep off the weight.

Her face would be described by most as handsome but not stunning. The angles a little too sharp, the eyes a little too narrow, the cheeks a little too hollow. Regardless, it worked for him. She always applied her makeup with precision, hiding every flaw and accentuating the positives. And her mouth was truly beautiful–full lips, always covered with dark lipstick, and straight white teeth. You found yourself staring at her mouth when she talked, the way you did with Julia Roberts. Armistead had been mesmerized by her mouth on more than one occasion, a trait he was sure he shared with many jurors.

“So what’s up? You don’t call at seven in the morning to chat.”

Armistead smiled to himself. All business. He loved it.

“I think I’ve got an interesting case for you. High stakes. Big publicity. Sympathetic victim.”

“I’m listening.”

“A two-year-old child died last night in the emergency room because his parents refused to get medical help for a ruptured appendix for three days. We did everything we could to bring him around, but it was too late. Plus, though I can’t prove it yet, I think the parents might have abused this child and their other two kids as well–a five-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl.”

Armistead paused, allowing the magnitude of his favor to kick in. “I thought you might be interested,” he said.

Interested,” replied Rebecca. “You could say I’m interested.” She sounded energized. “Meet me at the office in an hour. I’ll need an affidavit.”

“I’ll be there,” he promised.

There was silence for a brief moment. “What’s the kid’s name?” Rebecca asked.

“Joshua Hammond.”

“What did he look like?”

This strange question caught Armistead a little off-guard. Honestly, he couldn’t much remember. “Typical two-year-old. Blond hair, I think, pudgy… Why is that important?”

“It’s not, really. I just like to put a face with my files. On a murder case, I usually tape a picture of the victim to the inside cover of my trial notebook. Helps me remember what the case is about.”

This side of Rebecca surprised him. It also shamed him a little. He couldn’t remember what this kid’s face looked like if his own life depended on it. The thought that a ruthless prosecutor had more compassion than he did was disturbing.

“Maybe you should tape your own picture there,” Armistead suggested. “This case is about getting you a promotion.”

She huffed. “You’re such a jerk sometimes.”

That’s better. That’s the Rebecca he knew. Combative, biting…irresistible.

“I’ll make it up to you later,” he promised.

Rebecca took a quick shower and threw on a pair of tight-fitting jeans and a loose-fitting tank top. Birkenstocks with no socks. She applied liberal amounts of blush, eye shadow, lipstick, and mascara in near record time. She layered on the deodorant and perfume. She was on her way in thirty minutes.

She formulated a strategy during the twenty-minute drive from her condo. She would talk to Child Protective Services on Monday. She could have a grand jury indictment by Tuesday. She would have an arrest warrant issued for the parents on Tuesday evening and request an arraignment and bond hearing for Wednesday morning. She would charge them with criminally negligent homicide, requesting a huge bond. She would seek a foster home for the children while the parents were behind bars. Even if the parents made bond, she would ask that it be conditioned on foster care for the kids pending trial on the theory that the best interest of the children required caregivers who would seek appropriate medical help.

She would pull the kids into her office and get some powerful videotaped statements before shipping them off to the foster home. She had cut her teeth on domestic-violence cases. She knew how to work the kids.

She would alert the media and promise exclusive interviews. And she would handle everything herself.

She thought about Sean’s comment, and the anger seeped in. This case wasn’t about her. Like every other case, it was about justice. She would be the voice for an innocent two-year-old kid who never had a chance. He died because of uncaring parents, just as surely as if they had slit his tiny throat themselves. Sure, they would come to court and cry about how much they loved their baby. But Joshua was dead. And no amount of crying could change that. Rebecca believed he would never rest in peace until those responsible had been brought to justice.

If doing her job on this case resulted in a promotion, so be it. It was about time Virginia Beach had someone heading up the commonwealth’s attorney’s office who cared about the victims. Career politicians had been running the place long enough.

She had labored for twelve long years in this depressing office. She had patiently waited the last five for Commonwealth’s Attorney Harlan Fowler to retire or get a judicial appointment. It was not going to happen. She had to take matters into her own hands now.

She was planning a run against her boss in November. She would make an announcement two months from now–in August. Sean had nearly perfect timing. She could indict the parents, demonize them in the press, and not have to worry about a trial until after the election.

Finally, the break she needed. The one she deserved.

She glanced at the clock and pulled into a 7-Eleven. She had a few extra minutes and was in the mood to celebrate. She grabbed some coffee with two creams and a glazed donut. She turned up her nose as she walked past the yogurt.

They hauled Charles Arnold before the magistrate on Saturday morning. He was still sporting his orange jumpsuit. The commonwealth’s attorney never attended bond hearings on a misdemeanor. The arresting officers represented the interests of the state.

“Case number 04-3417,” announced the clerk. “Commonwealth versus Charles Arnold.”

Charles stepped up to the magistrate’s bench. Officer Thrasher, the beefy cop with the pockmarked face, stood to his left. The deputies who had escorted the prisoners from the holding cell stood casually behind him.

Everyone in the courtroom looked bored.

“You are charged with violating a noise ordinance and resisting arrest,” said the magistrate without looking up. “You’re entitled to a lawyer on the resisting-arrest charge. Can you afford your own lawyer, or do you want to see if you can qualify for the public defender?”

“Excuse me, Your Honor,” interrupted Thrasher. “We’re dropping the resisting-arrest charge and have no objection to a PR bond.”

Charles expected as much. They had no basis for resisting arrest. They just wanted him locked up for the night. Teach him a lesson. Respect the boys in blue.

“I’m assuming the defendant has no objection?” The magistrate glanced up at Charles.

“I suppose not,” said Charles. “But Judge, they kept me locked up all night on a baseless charge, they processed me like a felon, and now they just waltz into court–”

The magistrate held up his palm, and Charles stopped midsentence. “Look, buddy, even if all that were true, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m here to set bond, and the captain has generously offered you a personal recognizance bond. You get to go free as long as you sign a statement promising to appear on the trial date. It doesn’t get any better than that, pal, and I’ve got a lot of other folks to process.”

“Okay,” said Charles reluctantly. “But when is my trial date?”

“I set it for the first Tuesday of next month,” said Thrasher. “I’ll be in court that day on a number of other matters anyway.”

“That’s a month away,” complained Charles. A month of ribbing from his summer-school students. A month of explaining his innocence to everyone he knew.

And what if his ex-wife found out? He could hear her tsk, tsk, tsking him now. She’d find a way to blame it on him and the cops at the same time. She’d tell him to call the NAACP, countersue for a civil rights violation, show a little spine. No, he didn’t need this charge hanging over his head for a month. The sooner he could get it behind him, the better.

“I want the first available trial date.”

The magistrate grunted. It had probably been awhile since a defendant asked for an early trial date. “You got anything sooner?” he asked Thrasher.

The officer checked his black book. “Well, actually, Judge, I’m in court this Wednesday morning. I’m just not used to defendants who are released on a PR bond being so anxious to get back to court.”

The magistrate chuckled. “Me either.” Then to Charles. “Does Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. work for you, Mr. Arnold?”

“Yes sir.”

“Very well, then, gentlemen, this case will be heard Wednesday morning. And, Mr. Arnold, if for any reason you don’t appear, I’ll have a warrant issued for your arrest. Is that clear?”

“Crystal clear, Your Honor.”

“Call the next case,” ordered the magistrate.

On the way past the holding cell, Charles noticed Buster standing against the front of the cell, holding the bars in each hand, pressing his face against the steel. Charles stopped and moved closer.

“You bustin’ out?” asked Buster.

“I’m ghost,” said Charles. “Already got the resisting-arrest charge dropped.”

“I told you he was good,” Buster said over his shoulder to the other inmates. “Cash money.” He turned again to Charles, lowering his voice. “Don’t forget about me, man.”

“I won’t,” said Charles. “I couldn’t if I tried.”

They grabbed hands through the bars, another soul handshake. Charles sensed the man’s guarded desperation and decided to take another run at the Bible study.

“See you next Saturday night?” asked Charles.

Buster hesitated for just a moment. “Might as well,” he mumbled. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

“Seven o’clock,” said Charles. He turned quickly to leave before Buster could change his mind.

CHAPTER 9

What are we going to do with all this food?” asked Theresa Hammond as she busied herself in the kitchen. “Everyone at church has just been incredible.”

Thomas sat in his favorite recliner in the living room. The kids were in bed. It was Tuesday night, the night after Joshie’s funeral. And it was like they had entered into an unspoken pact not to talk about Joshie’s death. Every time Thomas tried to bring it up, Theresa would cry. And so he learned. The emotions were still too raw. Pretend it hadn’t happened. Shelter yourself in the shock of it all. Deal with it later.

“Beats me,” said the big man, staring at the spot on the floor where he would wrestle with Tiger and wait for Joshie to pile on.

“You think the kids will make it through the night?” Theresa asked between the clinking of dishes.

“Prob’ly not. Stinky’ll come climbin’ into our bed about midnight, then Tiger’ll holler ’bout nightmares a few hours later.”

“You hungry?” She seemed desperate to talk about something–anything but Joshie.

“’Course not. Been doin’ nothin’ but eatin’ and talkin’ to visitors all day. Why does everybody in church think they’ve gotta bring food over, like we can’t cook our own meals anymore?”

“I guess they just don’t know what else to do.” As she talked her voice quivered. Thomas could tell she was on the verge of tears again. He got up out of his seat and stepped into the kitchen. He leaned against the doorway and watched her for a moment. He saw the vacant stare in her puffy eyes and shared her bone-deep grief. Though she had never said as much, he sensed that Theresa blamed him. And why not? His lack of faith had surely caused this. It would be a burden that would haunt him the rest of his life.

Maybe he should walk over and rub her shoulders. Maybe he should just hold her and lie to her–tell her it would be all right. Truth was, he didn’t really know what to do. Emotions were not his thing.

“You all right?”

“Yeah.”

He nodded, then turned around to walk down the narrow hallway toward the bedroom. A firm but polite knock on the front door stopped him.

“Can you get that?” called Theresa from the kitchen.

“I reckon,” he murmured to himself. “It’s prob’ly another casserole.”

When Thomas opened the door, the two men standing on the small wooden porch of the trailer were not smiling. They were dressed in the brown garb of the Virginia Beach Sheriff ’s Department. Their badges glistened in the light from the one bulb that had not yet burned out.

“Can I help you?” asked Thomas, standing in the doorway.

“Are you Mr. Hammond?”

He hesitated. “That’s me.”

“Well, Mr. Hammond, we don’t enjoy doing this under any circumstances –but we’ve got a job to do and hope you’ll understand.” The officer thrust some official looking papers at Thomas.

“What in Sam Hill?”

“We’re serving you with a summons for your arrest on charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide,” said the officer. “You are to appear tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. in Virginia Beach General District Court for your arraignment and bond hearing.”

“Thomas…who is it?” Theresa called from the kitchen.

“Nobody you know, Theresa,” Thomas replied. He stepped outside and closed the door behind him.

“Was that Mrs. Hammond?” asked the officer politely.

Thomas scowled. “Yes.”

“We have a summons for her as well. Same charges. You can deliver it to her yourself if you want to.”

Thomas reached out and took the papers without saying a word. The men did not leave.

“Is that it?” growled Thomas. They might just be doing their job, but he didn’t have to make it easy. “Are you fixin’ to take me to jail?”

“Not tonight,” replied the officer evenly. “The commonwealth’s attorney could have requested a warrant for your arrest tonight. Instead, this summons is basically saying that you’re being trusted to show up on your own.”

“Will I go to jail tomorrow?” Thomas pressed them. “Will I lose the kids?”

“You might go to jail. Depends on what the judge says about bond. As for the kids, well…the commonwealth is basically claiming that child neglect caused the death of your son. If you have other kids, there’s a chance you could lose custody of them pending trial.” As the officer spoke, he shuffled slowly back to the edge of the porch. Both officers eyed Thomas warily.

Thomas felt the warmth rise in his neck. His head started spinning and burning with anger. Who did these guys think they were? They come to his house the night after he buries his own son, they matter-of-factly accuse him of murder, and then they just stand there and calmly say they might take his other children from him as well. He looked down at his clenched fists and thought about how good it would feel to pop these guys.

“Leave,” he sneered.

“Mr. Hammond, I know this is incredibly tough, but don’t do anything drastic. Get yourself an attorney–”

“Leave,” he said louder. “Now!”

“We’re just doing our job, sir.”

“Nobody takes my kids from me.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked the officer who had not yet said a word, still hovering near the edge of the porch.

“You know exactly what I mean,” replied Thomas, taking a step toward him. “Now, if you’ve finished your job, get out of here.”

Both men backed down the steps without taking their eyes off Thomas.

He stood on the small porch, arms folded across his chest, until the unmarked brown sedan backed out of the parking space next to his trailer and headed out of the trailer park.

Only then did he begin to read the official-looking papers that he held in his trembling hand. When he had finished, he punched the side of the trailer, and heard the pop of the siding as it yielded to the force of his blow.

“Over my dead body,” he said. Then he braced himself to tell Theresa.

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Reading Group Guide

A. Section 1

Read chapters 1-20 (pp. 1-107). The primary legal, ethical and spiritual conflicts are introduced in these pages.

1.Should the First Amendment religious freedom clause protect Thomas and Theresa Hammond who prayed for three days for the healing of their critically ill baby before they took him to the hospital?

2.Should Thomas and Theresa Hammond go to jail? If you were a lawyer, would you defend Thomas and Theresa? Would you prosecute them? Why or why not?

3.Where should the line be drawn for parents who believe in faith healing? The courts have said that parents can refuse medical help and make themselves a martyr, but have no right to make martyrs of their children. Do you agree? What if Thomas and Theresa had only waited two days before taking little Joshie to the hospital, but he still died? Would that change your mind on whether they should go to jail? What if they only waited one day? Twelve hours?

4.Professor Charles Arnold has his own religious freedom issue brewing. In his case, it arises from his failure to comply with the noise ordinance and get a permit before preaching on the sidewalk. Should he comply? How does the phrase, “the power to regulate is the power to censor,” fit into this?

5.Find Scripture references that might be used to support faith healing and Scripture references that might be used to support medical intervention. Was Thomas Hammond justified in his stance from a Scriptural perspective? What about Theresa?

6.What does the reader learn about the character of Thomas Hammond? Is he a good father? A good Christian?

7.What motivates Rebecca Crawford? Is she a worthy antagonist? Her nickname is “the Barracuda.” Give two examples of actions that justify this label. Does the Barracuda have any redeeming qualities?

8.Have one member of the group present a brief closing argument contending that Thomas and Theresa should go to jail for their actions. Have another member of the group present a closing argument in their defense. Now have the group deliberate as if you are a jury. Are you able to reach a unanimous verdict?

B. Section 2

Read chapters 21-41 (pp. 108-237). This section focuses on several cultural conflicts. One is the conflict between the African-American evangelical culture, represented by Charles Arnold, and a fundamentalist strain of the white evangelical culture, represented by Thomas Hammond. Another conflict is the differences in lifestyles between Nikki Moreno and the Hammond children, Tiger and Stinky.

1.Does Charles Arnold personify any of the characteristics of the African-American evangelical community in the United States? If so, which ones? Does Thomas Hammond personify any of the characteristics of the fundamentalist movement among white evangelical churches? If so, which ones?

2.What issues are important to Charles? What issues are important to Thomas? Are there any issues that they both feel passionate about? How do their different backgrounds conflict? How do they overcome their differences?

3.Is there a cultural difference today between African-American churches and predominantly Anglo churches? What are those differences? Does the interaction between Thomas and Charles demonstrate ways in which those differences can be honored yet result in unity rather than division?

4.What problems does Nikki Moreno face when she is assigned guardianship of the Hammond children? How do her methods of “parenting” differ from those of Thomas and Theresa? Which methods are better? Why?

5.What problems do Tiger and Stinky face as they adjust to their new home with Nikki? Which child, Tiger or Stinky, changes the most as a result of being removed from their home? Give examples from the story of this change.

6.What does Nikki Moreno learn about herself and life in general when she becomes responsible for two young children? Give examples of how raising kids can change a person’s perspective on life.

7.Have members tell about a time when they were thrust into a situation with people of a totally different culture. Focus on the following questions: What was the major cultural difference? How did the member respond? How did the other person respond? How were you stretched as an individual? Was this a good experience or a bad one?

C. Section 3

Read Chapters 42-61 (pp. 238-326). Conflicts between believers and non-believers characterize this novel. This section further develops these conflicts through several different types of relationships — fellow inmates, opposing lawyers and two characters who are attracted to each other.

1.When Thomas Hammond is incarcerated, his Christianity comes under fire. How does Thomas react? Is this a good model for Christians to follow? How does the type of persecution that Thomas encountered help advance the faith?

2.How does Thomas initiate a friendship with Buster Cantrell? How does Buster take advantage of Thomas? How is their conflict resolved? Do you think this friendship would have occurred if Buster had not learned to respect Thomas?

3.How does Charles Arnold interact with his adversary, prosecuting attorney Rebecca Crawford? How is this similar to the way Thomas handled Buster? How is it different? Which man — Thomas or Charles — used the better approach?

4.How have you been able to keep your testimony in stressful situations? What were the spiritual results of your actions?

5.What conflict arises when the relationship between Charles and Nikki starts to move beyond friendship? Do you approve of the way Charles handled this situation? How does Charles’ divorce from Denita impact his relationship with Nikki?

6.How can a believer witness to a non-believer without souring the non-believer on God? Give examples where you’ve seen this work in your life or others that you know. Which character in this book has the most authentic testimony? Why?

D. Section 4

Read chapters 62-81 (pp. 327-417). The major theme of this book is evidenced in the final chapters of Dying Declaration. It deals with the interplay between mercy, grace and justice in the lives of the main characters.

1.Read James 2:13. What does this verse mean? How does it apply to the case against Thomas and Theresa Hammond? Does this verse mean that a Christian should never be a prosecutor? On the other hand, can a Christian be a defense lawyer if he or she disagrees with the way the client acted? How did Charles justify his representation of Thomas and Theresa Hammond even though he disagreed with what they did?

2.Thomas Hammond tries to take justice into his own hands, causing his own conviction so that his wife Theresa might be freed. Was Thomas justified in what he did? Buster Jackson was a willing accomplice in Thomas’ scheme. Was Buster justified in helping Thomas by relaying Thomas’ “jailhouse confession” to the Barracuda and ultimately the court?

3.Following his release, Buster Jackson again tried to influence the case by entering into a complex scheme with Dr. Sean Armistead that resulted in Armistead’s “dying declaration” being accepted as evidence even though Armistead was not dead. Were these actions of Buster justified? Why or why not?

4.What did Thomas Hammond learn through his ordeal about the interplay between faith and love in the role of a father? What did he learn about the interplay between discipline and mercy? Does he still believe in withholding medical treatment from members of his family? Is he a better father and husband when the book ends? Why?

5.What changes did you see in Nikki throughout the book? What characters caused the biggest changes in her life? Give examples of actions that might have caused her new openness to the value of faith and the value of family?

6.Now that you have concluded the book, reconvene the group as the jury for the Hammond family. Did they receive the right “verdict” in the story? Why or why not? Is your conclusion as a jury unanimous? Did anyone change his or her vote from the vote cast after reading just the first twenty chapters?

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 12, 2012

    Couldn't put this book down!

    This is not just another fiction book written about lawyers, by a lawyer. It had me hooked from the very first pages and kept me there until the end. I hated characters, loved characters, and cheered for them until the very end. The story has a twist for the ending, and I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Christian themes with real heroes who win at the end of the day.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2004

    A thought provoking novel

    In Virginia Beach, Thomas and Theresa Hammond place their faith in prayer as they are deeply religious adhering to a strict fundamental interpretation of the Lord¿s word. When their youngest child two years old Joshua becomes gravelly ill and with the Hammonds having no money, they pray to the Lord to heal their son. Three days later the child is rushed to the hospital, but it is too late and he dies................................... The law comes down hard on the parents, blaming them for the death of their son due to negligent homicide. The media portrays the pair as somber pious fanatics whose inflexible attitude killed their child. No one cares that they had no money or health insurance leaving them to believe their only option was to pray for a miracle. The court places their other two children in the care of Special Advocate Nikki Moreno awaiting the outcome of the trial of the Hammonds. Deputy Commonwealth Attorney General Rebecca ¿Barracuda¿ Crawford sees this case as an opportunity to further her political ambitions by hanging the Hammonds for child abuse and cruelty. Nikki enlists Regent Law School Professor and street preacher Charles Arnold to counter the dirty tricks pulled by the Barracuda who cares naught for a dead child and even less for justice............................. This is a magnificent legal thriller that provides deep insight into the issues of protecting children, freedom of religion and our health system failing the working poor. The cast feels genuine especially the accused and their confused surviving children. Though the Barracuda¿s ambitions is two degrees beyond Lady Macbeth, fans will take immense pleasure in a well written, easy to follow terse drama that expertly lays out several societal moral issues and failures......................... Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2004

    Court drama.

    Thomas and Theresa Hammond are very religious and believe in stern discipline. When their youngest son, Joshua, is sick, they turn to their faith. After three days, they rush Joshua to the hospital but the boy dies while there. The Hammonds are then faced with charges of negligent homicide and child abuse. ......................... Nikki Moreno is the Special Advocate. The judge presiding places five-year-old John Paul 'Tiger' and his little sister, Hannah 'Stinky', in Nikki's care pending their parents' trial. (Yes, unusual. The author did well on explaining how and why.) .................... Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Rebecca Crawford (A.K.A. the Barracuda) is up for election soon and uses the case to her advantage for good press. With the public watching her every move, she pulls all the tricks in her arsenal against the Hammonds. ................... Nikki goes for back up in the form of Professor Charles Arnold. Charles teaches at Regent Law School and is a street evangelist. Between the two of them, they know every legal trick in the books ... and some that are not. ..................... **** This is a wonderful story for all fans of court TV or fictional legal books. I estimate that about half the book is set in the court room. So if you do not care for that, avoid this novel. However, the author does an incredible job of explaining it all in terms that any layman can understand. Nothing will overwhelm you. A terrific legal drama! ****

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    Poop

    Hi thiis book sucks

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 5, 2012

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    Posted January 11, 2010

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    Posted June 7, 2012

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    Posted January 24, 2010

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    Posted January 27, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 8 Customer Reviews

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