Michael Connelly: The Reversal

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Michael Connelly The Reversal
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    The Reversal
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Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change stripes and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After 24 years in prison, convicted killer Jason Jessup has been exonerated by new DNA evidence. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years. With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.

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“Actually, your meeting is in conference room A,” said the receptionist after checking a computer screen in front of her. “You go through the door, turn right and go to the end of the hall. Right again and CONFERENCE ROOM A is on the left. It’s marked on the door. They’re expecting you.”

The door in the paneled-wood wall behind her buzzed free and Bosch went through, wondering about the fact that they were waiting for him. Since he had received the summons from the DA’s secretary the afternoon before, Bosch had been unable to determine what it was about. Secrecy was expected from the DA’s Office but usually some information trickled out. He hadn’t even known he would be meeting with more than one person until now.

Following the prescribed trail, Bosch came to the door marked CONFERENCE ROOM A, knocked once and heard a female voice say, “Come in.”

He entered and saw a woman seated by herself at an eight-chaired table, a spread of documents, files, photos and a laptop computer in front of her. She looked vaguely familiar but he could not place her. She was attractive with dark, curling hair framing her face. She had sharp eyes that followed him as he entered, and a pleasant, almost curious smile. Like she knew something he didn’t. She wore the standard female prosecutor’s power suit in navy blue. Harry might not have been able to place her but he assumed she was a DDA.

“Detective Bosch?”

“That’s me.”

“Come in, have a seat.”

Bosch pulled out a chair and sat across from her. On the table he saw a crime scene photograph of a child’s body in an open Dumpster. It was a girl and she was wearing a blue dress with long sleeves. Her feet were bare and she was lying on a pile of construction debris and other trash. The white edges of the photo were yellowed. It was an old print.

The woman moved a file over the picture and then offered her hand across the table.

“I don’t think we’ve ever met,” she said. “My name is Maggie McPherson.”

Bosch recognized the name but he couldn’t remember from where or what case.

“I’m a deputy district attorney,” she continued, “and I’m going to be second chair on the Jason Jessup prosecution. First chair-”

“Jason Jessup?” Bosch asked. “You’re going to take it to trial?”

“Yes, we are. We’ll be announcing it next week and I need to ask you to keep it confidential until then. I am sorry that our first chair is late coming to our meet-”

The door opened and Bosch turned. Mickey Haller stepped into the room. Bosch did a double take. Not because he didn’t recognize Haller. They were half brothers and he easily knew him on sight. But seeing Haller in the DA’s office was one of those images that didn’t quite make sense. Haller was a criminal defense attorney. He fit in at the DA’s office about as well as a cat did at the dog pound.

“I know,” Haller said. “You’re thinking, What in the hell is this?”

Smiling, Haller moved to McPherson’s side of the table and started pulling out a chair. Then Bosch remembered how he knew McPherson’s name.

“You two…,” Bosch said. “You were married, right?”

“That’s right,” Haller said. “Eight wonderful years.”

“And what, she’s prosecuting Jessup and you’re defending him? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?”

Haller’s smile became a broad grin.

“It would only be a conflict if we were opposing each other, Harry. But we’re not. We’re prosecuting him. Together. I’m first chair. Maggie’s second. And we want you to be our investigator.”

Bosch was completely confused.

“Wait a minute. You’re not a prosecutor. This doesn’t-”

“I’m an appointed independent prosecutor, Harry. It’s all legit. I wouldn’t be sitting here if it weren’t. We’re going after Jessup and we want you to help us.”

Bosch pulled out a chair and slowly sat down.

“From what I heard, this case is beyond help. Unless you’re telling me Jessup rigged the DNA test.”

“No, we’re not telling you that,” McPherson said. “We did our own testing and matching. His results were correct. It wasn’t his DNA on the victim’s dress.”

“But that doesn’t mean we’ve lost the case,” Haller quickly added.

Bosch looked from McPherson to Haller and then back again. He was clearly missing something.

“Then whose DNA was it?” he asked.

McPherson glanced sideways at Haller before answering.

“Her stepfather’s,” she said. “He’s dead now but we believe there is an explanation for why his semen was found on his stepdaughter’s dress.”

Haller leaned urgently across the table.

“An explanation that still leaves room to reconvict Jessup of the girl’s murder.”

Bosch thought for a moment and the image of his own daughter flashed in his mind. He knew there were certain kinds of evil in the world that had to be contained, no matter the hardship. A child killer was at the top of that list.

“Okay,” he said. “I’m in.”


Tuesday, February 16, 1:00P.M.

The DA’s Office had a press conference room that had not been updated since the days they’d used it to hold briefings on the Charles Manson case. Its faded wood-paneled walls and drooping flags in the corner had been the backdrop of a thousand press briefings and they gave all proceedings there a threadbare appearance that belied the true power and might of the office. The state prosecutor was never the underdog in any undertaking, yet it appeared that the office did not have the money for even a fresh coat of paint.

The setting, however, served the announcement on the Jessup decision well. For possibly the first time in these hallowed halls of justice, the prosecution would indeed be the underdog. The decision to retry Jason Jessup was fraught with peril and the realistic likelihood of failure. As I stood at the front of the room next to Gabriel Williams and before a phalanx of video cameras, bright lights and reporters, it finally dawned on me what a terrible mistake I had made. My decision to take on the case in hopes of currying favor with my daughter, ex-wife and myself was going to be met with disastrous consequences. I was going to go down in flames.

It was a rare moment to witness firsthand. The media had gathered to report the end of the story. The DA’s Office would assuredly announce that Jason Jessup would not be subjected to a retrial. The DA might not offer an apology but would at the very least say the evidence was not there. That there was no case against this man who had been incarcerated for so long. The case would be closed and in the eyes of the law as well as the public Jessup would finally be a free and innocent man.

The media is rarely fooled in complete numbers and usually doesn’t react well when it happens. But there was no doubt that Williams had punked them all. We had moved stealthily in the last week, putting together the team and reviewing the evidence that was still available. Not a word had leaked, which must’ve been a first in the halls of the CCB. While I could see the first inkling of suspicion creasing the brows of the reporters who recognized me as we entered, it was Williams who delivered the knockout punch when he wasted no time in stepping before a lectern festooned with microphones and digital recorders.

“On a Sunday morning twenty-four years ago today, twelve-year-old Melissa Landy was taken from her yard in Hancock Park and brutally murdered. An investigation quickly led to a suspect named Jason Jessup. He was arrested, convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison without parole. That conviction was reversed two weeks ago by the state supreme court and remanded to my office. I am here to announce that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will retry Jason Jessup in the death of Melissa Landy. The charges of abduction and murder stand. This office intends once again to prosecute Mr. Jessup to the fullest extent of the law.”

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