Wednesday, October 26, 2011

THE LAST MURDER

I try to have as many guest speakers in my prosecution clinic class as possible. They give the class something that was almost entirely lacking when I was in law school--insight into the real world practice of law. I choose speakers carefully, only asking those whom I believe to be top notch in their profession. Last night I was visited by Heather Jones, the misdemeanor division chief in the Gainesville State Attorney's Office, and she spoke on the topic of prosecuting domestic violence cases. I try to show my appreciation to my speakers in a number of different ways. One way is to present them with a copy of one of my books. I gave Ms. Jones a copy of "The Last Murder," and this morning I received the following email from her:

"Well, before you can appreciate the magnitude of what I am about to say, you need to know a few things about me that I suspect you don’t already know.

"First, I don’t read for pleasure.  Law School and the practice of law beat out of me every impulse to read.  At most, I will flip through fashion magazines.  If those magazines have an article more than a page or two in length, I generally just read the first or second sentence in each paragraph so that I get the gist.  Second, I go to bed early.  I usually am in bed by 8 and asleep by 9.  There are few things on this planet important enough for me to stay up late.  Sitting at my computer right now, I can hardly think of one.  Finally, I don’t like murder movies or murder TV shows.  I don’t like them as fiction or non-fiction.  I like happy stories, stories about romance (not books, though, see point number 1 above).  When I was a kid, my mom read all sorts of biographies and stories about serial killers.  I can remember her reading 'The Stranger Beside Me' and Anne Rules’ other books.  I thought she was crazy.

"When you gave me your book last night, I was excited.  I was excited for you that you had written a book, I was excited that you were kind enough to give me a signed copy, but I didn’t think I would read it (refer to rules 1 and 3 above).  Last night, I got into bed and read the acknowledgements and the jacket of your book.  I told my husband the story of you giving it to me and even statused about it on Facebook.  (Yes, status in this context is a verb).  Before I knew it, it was 1a.m.  I was up WAY past my bedtime.  I was 9 chapters into a story about a murder committed by the most notorious serial killer of my lifetime.  In one evening, your book had me break 3 hard and fast rules in my life. 

"I tell you all of that to tell you that your book is terrific.  It is so very interesting to me as a prosecutor.  I will suggest to all the young prosecutors I supervise that they read it.  I would actually like to buy another copy for my mother (yes, the crazy lady referenced under the rule section of my email).  Can I buy it from you?  Can I be so bold as to ask you to sign a copy for her?  She would love that and her birthday is coming up!!"

Quite naturally, I was flattered. Her email told me that the book could fulfill one of the objectives I had for writing it--to help young prosecutors find their way through the prosecution of a complex high-profile case. I replied:


"I think the reason this book didn’t meet your expectations is because it is not about Ted Bundy. It’s about the prosecution of [insert celebrity killer] and the problems confronted by both prosecution and defense. I’m researching for a book on the Lindbergh kidnapping right now, and the parallels between that case and the Bundy case are striking."

 On another subject, I had no idea that "status" was a verb. I must be a real fossil.