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Book Review: The Homicide Chronicle: Defending the Citizen Accused by Ralph Shamas

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When I was in high school, I had the misfortune of sitting in on a career day presentation that was given by a defense attorney. When asked how he could defend criminals, his response was along the lines of it not being about justice, it was just about winning the game. He totally turned me off to the idea that there were decent defense attorneys out there.

Twenty years later, I became friends with another defense attorney who told me about how most guilty parties plead out before they go to court and that the remainder usually was either innocent or had their rights violated. He gave me a different perspective on his profession. This man truly believes in defending the rights of the accused. Ralph Shamas, the author of The Homicide Chronicle, seems a lot more like my friend. With over 35 years of experience as a defense attorney, he has a lot of knowledge to be able to put to use in this fictionalized account of a sex murder.

In The Homicide Chronicle, we follow along on the case of a young mother who was brutally murdered after she had sex with two men. The defense attorney in this story is R. Bruce Sanah who works in his hometown of Douglas, Arizona. This small town borders Agua Prieta, Mexico. Sanah is a young attorney who only takes on clients he believes in. When he is approached to handle this case, he knows that it can make or break his career. Initially, he has mixed feelings about taking it, but things heat up quickly and he has to make a decision before he feels ready to do so.

After agreeing to take on this client, it appears that the evidence points in the direction of the other man who was present during the murder. When Sanah discovers that his client is at risk of facing the death penalty if he loses, he becomes more determined to prove his innocence, but there are still some doubts. Shamas shows us this case through this young attorney’s eyes. We share the same doubts and concerns that he does and it is apparent that there is a lot of deception involved. The main thing we have to wonder is, who is doing the deceiving?

I really found myself riveted by this novel. I felt like I had an insider view of what happens during a lot of trials. Seeing how trials are run and jurors are manipulated by both sides, was eye opening. The media also can play a very strong role in affecting how the public views the accused. I was totally fascinated by this story, and it definitely had an effect on how I will view jury duty in the future. I enjoyed reading The Homicide Chronicle and am glad that it gave me a lot to think about. I think many readers will find themselves experiencing paradigm shifts. I know I did.

(Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views)

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