From America's foremost criminal defense lawyer and author of the bestselling How to Argue and Win Every Time comes this riveting, true account of a trial that adeptly exposes the unrelenting power of the state, which so often crushes those -- guilty or innocent -- who come before the bar of justice. It could happen to you.
When Sandy Jones and her teenage son were accused of murdering a real estate developer on their hardscrabble Oregon farm, the prosecution had an eyewitness to the shooting and a photograph of Sandy holding a smoking rifle. County officials kept Sandy in jail while they awaited the trial, despite ballistic evidence that strongly suggested she hadn't fired the fatal shot. The case erupted into an epic struggle between Sandy -- who was poor, different, and a woman -- and the "good old boys" of Lincoln County, Oregon, who held all the power.
Though the Joneses' guilt seemed eminently clear to the county and the prosecution, Gerry Spence, renowned for his work on the cases of Karen Silkwood and Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, took the case pro bono and the courtroom battle exploded into three years of intensely moving jury trials, recounted here from the record of the case. The Smoking Gun follows Gerry Spence through his passionate arguments with two different judges and two different prosecutorial teams, his exacting jury selection, his expert questioning of the witnesses, and his incredible rapport with the jury as he fights for the rights of Sandy and her son.
With a superb sense of drama and an intimate knowledge of the court system, Spence highlights the pitfalls that every defendant faces, making The Smoking Gun extremely relevant today, when our rights are being eroded and when the average American, even if innocent, is hard-pressed to obtain a fair trial.
A nationally renowned trial attorney and author, Spence (Trial by Fire; Gunning for Justice) introduces his latest book with a cautionary pronouncement: this could happen to you. What follows is an electrifying and sensational true story of an Oregon murder trial that dragged on for more than three years in the late 1980s. In July 1985, Sandy Jones and her teenage son were charged with the murder of Wilfred Gertulla, a neighbor and smalltime real estate developer. Gertulla's wife was present when he was murdered and produces a photograph of Mrs. Jones holding a smoking .22 caliber rifle seemingly irrefutable evidence of her guilt. Spence later finds out that the Joneses, impoverished farmers and community outcasts, have been battling Gertulla and the town over a questionable right-of-way that runs through the Gertullas' property. Spence, sensing a homegrown conspiracy, decides to join the defense pro bono after seeing the abusive treatment Sandy suffers in the local jail. The state prosecutors suppress evidence, manipulate legal loopholes and generally attempt to deprive the Joneses of a fair trial in order to attain a conviction. This disquieting book shows that the facts don't speak for themselves, innocence is rarely presumed and justice is far from a first priority in America's courtrooms. Spence is a gifted storyteller and his rhetorical skills are mesmerizing. The blizzards of argument and counterargument that would be tedious reading in less talented hands are neatly incorporated into this thrilling account of injustice barely averted.