Every Reasonable Doubt, by Pamela Samuels Young

Disappointing read for lawyers

Author Pamela Samuels Young’s biography says that she was a lawyer for a large law firm and then an in-house employment lawyer for a major corporation.  As an author, she’s a very good story-teller who unfortunately gets most of the legal issues wrong. This is disappointing for me as a lawyer (and an employment lawyer).  It’s bad when non-lawyers get the legal points wrong, but when lawyers who should know better get them wrong, it’s very frustrating.  Telling a good story sometimes requires condensing things that happen over long periods into a shorter time frame and sometimes glossing over legal nuances and procedural details, but Ms. Young discusses the nuances and details and gets them wrong.  Even the basic premise and law firm situations are just not close to reality.  Lawyers should be warned in advance about reading this book.

I picked up this book on a discount sale based on the blurb, which seemed intriguing.  To give Ms. Young her due, she sets up an interesting story here with good characters and draws you into the mystery and the suspense of whether the young black attorney/heroine will be able to get her client an acquittal in her trial, where she is accuse of brutally murdering her husband.  The story digresses into a sappy emotional drama about Vernetta (the hero) and her husband’s marital problems (caused by her long work hours), which becomes a distraction to the main story rather than an interesting peek into the lead character’s life and back story.  There are other side characters who have two-dimensional existences and who add plot points but few emotional hits.

The story itself starts off implausible and gets both more implausible and more predictable as it goes along. The big surprise reveal at the end is not a surprise and lacks much suspense.  I had a hard time from the beginning accepting that a young employment lawyer who just joined a new firm being would handle a major LA murder case with no criminal experience.  The author lost me totally when she had the prosecutor delivering her closing argument first in the trial (that is wrong, wrong, wrong) so that her hero could deliver the big closing for the defense at the end of the trial.  (The prosecution always closes last, because the state has the burden of proof.)  Some of the courtroom sequences here were pretty good, but mostly the author sacrifices reality in order to tell her story in a more exciting way, which may work for non-lawyer readers, but for me I just kept track of all the legal errors, which numbered in the several dozens by the end.

The story got me and drew me in but by the end I was just waiting for it to be over so I could find something better to read.  Very disappointing.

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