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During the tumultuous decade before the Civil War, no issue was more divisive than the pursuit and return of fugitive slaves--a practice enforced under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. When free Blacks and their abolitionist allies intervened, prosecutions and trials inevitably followed. These cases involved high legal, political, and--most of all--human drama, with runaways desperate for freedom, their defenders seeking recourse to a "higher law" and normally fair-minded judges (even some opposed to slavery) considering the disposition of human beings as property.
Popular author Steven Lubet brings his signature blend of humor, advocacy, and legal ethics to The Importance of Being Honest, an incisive analysis of how honesty and law play out in current affairs and historical events. Drawing on original work as well as op-ed pieces and articles that have appeared in the American Lawyer, the Chicago Tribune, and many other national publications, Lubet explores the complex aspects of honesty in the legal world.The Importance of Being Honest is full of tales of questionable practices and poor behavior, chosen because negative examples are much richer, and often more remarkable, in their ultimate lessons. Wyatt Earp's shootout with Billy Clanton, Bill Clinton's disastrous decision to lie under oath, Oscar Wilde's self-destructive perjury in a 1896 libel trial, and the dubious resolution of Justice Scalia's duck hunting trip with Dick Cheney are only a few of the cases Lubet use to illustrate that law is a vague and boggy realm where truth, and falsehood, is seldom absolute. With his lively, insightful, and sometimes hilarious prose, Lubet takes readers on a tour of the law in our everyday lives, and forces us to rethink how we really feel about honesty and truth.
John Brown's Spytells the nearly unknown story of John E. Cook, the person John Brown trusted most with the details of his plans to capture the Harper's Ferry armory in 1859. Cook was a poet, a marksman, a boaster, a dandy, a fighter, and a womanizer--as well as a spy. In a life of only thirty years, he studied law in Connecticut, fought border ruffians in Kansas, served as an abolitionist mole in Virginia, took white hostages during the Harper's Ferry raid, and almost escaped to freedom. For ten days after the infamous raid, he was the most hunted man in America with a staggering $1,000 bounty on his head. Tracking down the unexplored circumstances of John Cook's life and disastrous end, Steven Lubet is the first to uncover the full extent of Cook's contributions to Brown's scheme. Without Cook's participation, the author contends, Brown might never have been able to launch the insurrection that sparked the Civil War. Had Cook remained true to the cause, history would have remembered him as a hero. Instead, when Cook was captured and brought to trial, he betrayed John Brown and named fellow abolitionists in a full confession that earned him a place in history's tragic pantheon of disgraced turncoats.
The gunfight at the OK Corral occupies a unique place in American history. Although the event itself lasted less than a minute, it became the basis for countless stories about the Wild West. At the time of the gunfight, however, Wyatt Earp was not universally acclaimed as a hero. Among the people who knew him best in Tombstone, Arizona, many considered him a renegade and murderer. This book tells the nearly unknown story of the prosecution of Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and Doc Holiday following the famous gunfight. To the prosecutors, the Earps and Holiday were wanton killers. According to the defense, the Earps were steadfast heroes-- willing to risk their lives on the mean streets of Tombstone for the sake of order.
Lubet's Nothing But The Truth presents a novel and engaging analysis of the role of storytelling in trial advocacy. The best lawyers are storytellers, he explains, who take the raw and disjointed observations of witnesses and transform them into coherent and persuasive narratives. Critics of the adversary system, of course, have little patience for storytelling, regarding trial lawyers as flimflam artists who use sly means and cunning rhetoric to befuddle witnesses and bamboozle juries. Why not simply allow the witnesses to speak their minds, without the distorting influence of lawyers' stratagems and feints? But Lubet demonstrates that the craft of lawyer storytelling is a legitimate technique for determining the truth andnot at all coincidentallyfor providing the best defense for the attorney's client. Storytelling accomplishes three important purposes at trial. It helps to establish a "theory of the case," which is a plausible and reasonable explanation of the underlying events, presented in the light most favorable to the attorney's client. Storytelling also develops the "trial theme," which is the lawyer's way of adding moral force to the desired outcome. Most importantly, storytelling provides a coherent "story frame," which organizes all of the events, transactions, and other surrounding facts into an easily understandable narrative context. As with all powerful tools, storytelling may be misused to ill purposes. Therefore, as Lubet explains, lawyers do not have carte blanche to tell whatever stories they choose. It is a creative process to be sure, but every story must ultimately be based on "nothing but the truth." There is no room for lying. On the other hand, it is obvious that trial lawyers never tell "the whole truth," since life and experience are boundless and therefore not fully describable. No lawyer or court of law can ever get at the whole truth, but the attorney who effectively employs the techniques of storytelling will do the best job of sorting out competing claims and facts, thereby helping the court arrive at a decision that serves the goals of accuracy and justice. To illustrate the various challenges, benefits, and complexities of storytelling, Lubet elaborates the stories of six different trials. Some of the cases are real, including John Brown and Wyatt Earp, while some are fictional, including Atticus Finch and Liberty Valance. In each chapter, the emphasis is on the narrative itself, emphasizing the trial's rich context of facts and personalities. The overall conclusion, as Lubet puts it, is that "purposive storytelling provides a necessary dimension to our adversary system of justice."