James Sheehan, the author of Mayor of Lexington Avenue, is a Florida trial lawyer, and he has undoubtedly seen the justice system from any number of angles, some more flattering than others. His debut novel exposes some of the very real warts in the American capital punishment system, albeit in a story that drifts occasionally into melodrama and actually stacks the deck in its favor at the outset.
In a small Florida town, a brutal murder leads local police to target Rudy Kelly, a young man of borderline mental capacity whose only real crime (as the reader already knows) is that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's quickly charged for a murder he didn't commit, after a corrupt cop manages to coerce a confession from him while keeping Rudy's mother cooling her heels outside. Provided with a public defender whose ineffective representation was only slightly better than if Rudy had defended himself, Rudy is found guilty and sentenced to death.
Ten years later, a hotshot Miami lawyer named Jack Tobin reads an article about the death of Mikey Kelly, a man who just happens to have been Jack's childhood friend. It turns out Mikey died under somewhat suspicious circumstances while looking into the evidence of his son's guilt. Given Jack's history with Mikey (which is told in flashback), Jack embarks upon a crusade: first to prevent Rudy's execution (if not to establish his innocence and exonerate him), and subsequently to pursue those responsible for sending Rudy to death row despite knowledge of his innocence.
That's right: during Jack's efforts to get Rudy a new trial, he discovers that the local police and the prosecutor covered up critical evidence regarding the murder (much of which would have suggested Rudy's innocence, if not proven it absolutely). Jack's crusade transforms from an effort at simple exoneration and becomes something more: a campaign to demonstrate corruption and malice that allowed government officials to seek the death penalty against a man they knew—or categorically should have known—was innocent.