Scoundrels to the Hoosegow: Perry Mason Moments and Entertaining Cases from the Files of a Prosecuting Attorney

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I closed my direct examination of narcotics officer Bill Bohnert by asking, "Detective Bohnert, do you see in the courtroom today the man we just saw on the tape, selling the crack cocaine to Darren Bullard?"

            Bohnert pointed to Robert Funt.

            "He's right there. . . ."

            I heard laughter in the courtroom. I glanced at the defendant, who had dutifully raised his hand.

            The prisoners seated behind him were laughing. They recognized a Perry Mason moment when they saw one. 

            Bohnert continued, "He's the one with his hand raised in the air."

            It has been said that the public prosecutor has more power over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person—a daunting proposition, but perhaps less intimidating when that official’s perspective is tempered by humor and compassion.

            In Scoundrels to the Hoosegow, a veteran prosecutor who is also a consummate storyteller shares more than thirty entertaining legal stories drawn from real life, re-creating, with verve and wit, villains, heroes, and ordinary citizens. In cases both tragic and hilarious, Morley Swingle offers a behind-the-scenes look at the justice system, taking readers from the scene of the crime to the courtroom as he explores the worlds of judges, attorneys, police officers, and criminals.

            Informed by a deep appreciation of Mark Twain, Swingle aims to do for his profession what Clemens did for riverboat piloting. He leads readers on an enjoyable romp through crime and punishment, while offering a clear exposition of legal points—from the subtleties of cross-examination to the role of plea bargaining.

            In cases ranging from indecent exposure to conspiracy to commit murder, Swingle considers the fine line between pornography and obscenity and discusses sensitive issues surrounding first-degree murder and the death penalty. Whether describing a drunken but well-meaning probationer who frees the dogs on “death row” or the woman who tries to hire a reluctant hit man to dispose of her husband, he combines true crime and legal analysis with a healthy dose of humor—and shares the occasional “Perry Mason moment” in which a trial dramatically shifts direction.

            Not since the author of Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver,  wrote Small Town D.A. fifty years ago has an American prosecutor penned such a candid, revealing, and funny account of the job—an altogether satisfying book that sentences the reader to many hours of enjoyment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Morley Swingle’s Scoundrels to the Hoosegow is not only consistently fascinating, but there is much to be learned from it about life in and out of an American courtroom. I highly recommend this engrossing book to the general reader and, in particular, to members of the prosecutorial profession.”—Vincent Bugliosi

“Morley Swingle is a rarity among lawyers, and almost unique among prosecutors: a man who loves the books as much as the courtroom, and who writes as well as he dissects witnesses on the stand. Swingle presents the life of a country prosecutor with verve and wit. Scoundrels is a highly enjoyable romp through crime and punishment. If Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities captured the essence of criminal practice in a major metropolis, then Scoundrels surely captures the essence of that practice in small town and rural America.”—Robert H. Dierker, Circuit Court Judge, St. Louis, Missouri 

“Morley Swingle, a career prosecutor with a fine sense of humor and an appreciation of the English language, has produced an often funny, sometimes moving, but always interesting account of his 25 years as a prosecutor. The reader will gain an understanding of the importance of the prosecutor in our criminal justice system and the nature of decisions a prosecutor must make. Such an understanding is easy to acquire when the presentation is spiced with humor. The reader will also learn that Missouri has its share—maybe more than its share—of weird and sometimes dangerous scoundrels.”
Edward H. Hunvald, Professor of Law, University of Missouri-Columbia

 “Through true tales from his career, Morley Swingle offers an insightful look into the life of a small-town prosecutor. From the bright lights of Oprah to the gritty details of crimes, Swingle deftly details both the comic foibles of lawbreakers and the sometimes-tragic consequences of their criminal behavior. Along the way, the reader gains an appreciative feel for the wide range of issues prosecutors must address and the often-difficult decisions they must make.”—Gary P. Toohey, Editor, Journal of the Missouri Bar

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826217226
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,451,669
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Morley Swingle has been Prosecuting Attorney for Cape Girardeau County for more than twenty years, and he has taught at seminars around the country. Some of the thousands of cases Swingle has prosecuted have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline, and Court TV. He is the author of a novel, The Gold of Cape Girardeau, and a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

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