Until Proven Innocent: Could the real-life Kojak help save a man from the electric chair? [NOOK Book]

Overview

The prosecutor was no longer sure both murder defendants were guilty.
So he asked his dad -- the real-life Kojak.

The Miami Herald:
"[Brian] Cavanagh called on his father for help. Three decades ago, as a New York City detective, Thomas Cavanagh became famous clearing a man accused of a Manhattan murder. ...
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Until Proven Innocent: Could the real-life Kojak help save a man from the electric chair?

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Overview

The prosecutor was no longer sure both murder defendants were guilty.
So he asked his dad -- the real-life Kojak.

The Miami Herald:
"[Brian] Cavanagh called on his father for help. Three decades ago, as a New York City detective, Thomas Cavanagh became famous clearing a man accused of a Manhattan murder. His work led to the original Kojak TV movie and subsequent series.

Thomas Cavanagh built a reputation for cracking tough cases. He continued to track down elusive killers even after he retired and moved to South Florida. More than 15 years after he retired, Cavanagh used his legendary skills to help find a man who murdered a Davie woman during a home-invasion robbery.

Working together to crack a Davie murder case, the real- life Kojak and his prosecutor son..."


Breathless, a woman’s call to 911 interrupted a quiet night in the horse country suburbs:
“I’m stabbed to death. Please!”
Did somebody stab you? asked the operator.
“Yes! And my husband, my baby!”

Within minutes, officers arrived at her remote ranch house but didn’t know whether an assailant was still present. Announcing themselves, they got no response, then entered anyway, guns drawn, and began a dangerous, tense search, room by room. Then they heard a baby’s scream. Although the house wasn’t yet fully cleared, they followed the wailing to the master bedroom where they found, tied and gagged, her husband and elderly father-in-law. They and their 18-month-old all had been shot point-blank in the head—but were still alive.

Shocked, the officers called out to bring in paramedics, who had to crawl through the living room because the house still had not been completely cleared. Hurrying, and contrary to usual procedures, the officers spread out. One found a locked closet door; four officers gathered, and with guns ready, one of them kicked it in. Behind it they found their 911 caller—still holding the phone. “Oh, shit,” said the kicker.

In the history of Davie, Florida, there had never been such a savage and sociopathic crime, and police and homicide prosecutor Brian Cavanagh were determined to resolve it. For three years, they had two suspects under surveillance, then arrest. Both faced the death penalty. But as the legal case progressed, Cavanagh began to doubt that the defendants were partners. Possibly one had been a victim of the other, as well.

In 1963, Cavanagh’s dad, Tom, a Manhattan lieutenant of detectives, had a famous case called the “Career Girls Murder,” two women in their twenties found horribly mutilated in their Upper East Side apartment. The newspapers played the story big, a random killer on the loose, meanwhile Tom and his precinct detectives had been unable to solve it.

Months after the murder, Brooklyn detectives declared the case solved; they’d taken a signed confession from a man with a low IQ. Their additional proof was a photo in his wallet; it was of one of the girls he killed, he said. The man quickly recanted, although that didn’t much matter to the Brooklyn detectives.

As soon as he heard some of the details of the confession, Tom disbelieved it; the man didn’t fit the profile. Needing to work quietly under the most difficult of circumstances, Tom sent out his own detectives to do the impossible: identify the girl in the picture. It had been taken in some sort of park setting. They first showed it to botanists, who recognized the type of trees in the background and where they grew. From that they could guess at where the park was. Targeting nearby high schools, the detectives then showed the photo to teachers to see if any could recognize the girl.

One did. When they found the girl, she asked, “Where did you get that?”

After all that impossibly good work, Tom and his detectives caught a break and found the real killer of the Career Girls. Until then, Tom said, he hadn’t believed that police could make such mistakes. Afterward, as a result, New York State outlawed the death penalty. As well, this remarkable story inspired a TV movie and series starring a character playing Cavanagh’s role. His name was Lt. Theo Kojak.

As a child, Brian Cavanagh had watched his dad's anguish throughout that situation. Now, he had a case that was remarkably similar--except that he was potentially on the wrong side. Once his confidence level in the guilt of one of his defendants dropped to a level of precarious uncertainty, Brian was in no-man's land. He couldn't continue with a prosecution he no longer believed in, nor could he easily admit he'd been wrong for so long. While his dad was still around to watch, Brian approached his own moment of courage. Could he prove that he was the equal of his father?
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940016514581
  • Publisher: Arthur Jay Harris
  • Publication date: 4/1/2013
  • Series: Harris True Crime Collection , #4
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 422
  • Sales rank: 189,377
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

True crime writers primarily pursue the question “Why?” Why did somebody commit the crime? How could he get away with it for so long?

In my true crime books, I pursue a different primary question: about the case’s outcome, I ask, “Are you sure?”

Every true crime story has loose ends that naggingly just don’t fit into the constructed narrative. They make for a challenge: stay with your narrative and ignore or play them down, or follow them and risk your narrative.
There is an essential messiness to true crime that a reader of it must both resist and embrace. But that’s why we read it, right? If you want everything well-tied up at the end, read crime fiction. To start, give up on the idea that a story must have a bottom. How can there not be a bottom? Yes, theoretically there is a bottom, but to us on the outside looking in, it’s just not accessible. In reality, what we think are story bottoms are really false bottoms; beneath them, if we dare to look, are more bottoms. That wisdom, I should add, did not come to me easily. My stories are always less about the crimes themselves than my endurance to stay on the rollercoaster rides to find the truth. Countless times I’m upended, and I never see it coming.

Yet the job of a guide, narrator and investigator, such as myself, remains to organize that mess. However, I also scrutinize the work of the other guides, narrators, and investigators on the story. When I approach a story, I look for, then follow, significant pathways not taken: people who law enforcement couldn’t get or weren’t then ready to talk; witnesses who weren't asked everything important; and things the authorities were blind to or simply missed.

In each of my books, I first bring you up to speed by composing the story from what’s on the record, then I make a narrative switch to first person and have you follow my investigation. When I pick up the right trail, it becomes obvious. I always advance my stories, including Speed Kills and Until Proven Innocent, but the two books in which I made the most significant (and contrarian) contributions are Jeffrey Dahmer’s Dirty Secret: The Unsolved Murder of Adam Walsh, and Flowers for Mrs.Luskin.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2014

    Excellent

    Excellent true crime book. Author explores all the characters backgrounds thoroughly. Includes an epilogue as well. Long book, holds your interest the entire.time. Well worth the money.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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