Michael Connelly: The Reversal

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Michael Connelly The Reversal
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    The Reversal
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    Английский
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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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Michael Connelly


The Reversal

Harry Bosch 16 – Mickey Haller 03, 2010

To Shannon Byrne

with many thanks


PART ONE- -The Perp Walk

One

Tuesday, February 9, 1:43P.M.


The last time I’d eaten at the Water Grill I sat across the table from a client who had coldly and calculatedly murdered his wife and her lover, shooting both of them in the face. He had engaged my services to not only defend him at trial but fully exonerate him and restore his good name in the public eye. This time I was sitting with someone with whom I needed to be even more careful. I was dining with Gabriel Williams, the district attorney of Los Angeles County.

It was a crisp afternoon in midwinter. I sat with Williams and his trusted chief of staff-read political advisor-Joe Ridell. The meal had been set for 1:30 P.M., when most courthouse lawyers would be safely back in the CCB, and the DA would not be advertising his dalliance with a member of the dark side. Meaning me, Mickey Haller, defender of the damned.

The Water Grill was a nice place for a downtown lunch. Good food and atmosphere, good separation between tables for private conversation, and a wine list hard to top in all of downtown. It was the kind of place where you kept your suit jacket on and the waiter put a black napkin across your lap so you needn’t be bothered with doing it yourself. The prosecution team ordered martinis at the county taxpayers’ expense and I stuck with the free water the restaurant was pouring. It took Williams two gulps of gin and one olive before he got to the reason we were hiding in plain sight.

“Mickey, I have a proposition for you.”

I nodded. Ridell had already said as much when he had called that morning to set up the lunch. I had agreed to the meet and then had gone to work on the phone myself, trying to gather any inside information I could on what the proposition would be. Not even my first ex-wife, who worked in the district attorney’s employ, knew what was up.

“I’m all ears,” I said. “It’s not every day that the DA himself wants to give you a proposition. I know it can’t be in regard to any of my clients-they wouldn’t merit much attention from the guy at the top. And at the moment I’m only carrying a few cases anyway. Times are slow.”

“Well, you’re right,” Williams said. “This is not about any of your clients. I have a case I would like you to take on.”

I nodded again. I understood now. They all hate the defense attorney until they need the defense attorney. I didn’t know if Williams had any children but he would have known through due diligence that I didn’t do juvy work. So I was guessing it had to be his wife. Probably a shoplifting grab or a DUI he was trying to keep under wraps.

“Who got popped?” I asked.

Williams looked at Ridell and they shared a smile.

“No, nothing like that,” Williams said. “My proposition is this. I would like to hire you, Mickey. I want you to come work at the DA’s office.”

Of all the ideas that had been rattling around in my head since I had taken Ridell’s call, being hired as a prosecutor wasn’t one of them. I’d been a card-carrying member of the criminal defense bar for more than twenty years. During that time I’d grown a suspicion and distrust of prosecutors and police that might not have equaled that of the gangbangers down in Nickerson Gardens but was at least at a level that would seem to exclude me from ever joining their ranks. Plain and simple, they wouldn’t want me and I wouldn’t want them. Except for that ex-wife I mentioned and a half brother who was an LAPD detective, I wouldn’t turn my back on any of them. Especially Williams. He was a politician first and a prosecutor second. That made him even more dangerous. Though briefly a prosecutor early in his legal career, he spent two decades as a civil rights attorney before running for the DA post as an outsider and riding into office on a tide of anti-police and -prosecutor sentiment. I was employing full caution at the fancy lunch from the moment the napkin went across my lap.

“Work for you?” I asked. “Doing what exactly?”

“As a special prosecutor. A onetime deal. I want you to handle the Jason Jessup case.”

I looked at him for a long moment. First I thought I would laugh out loud. This was some sort of cleverly orchestrated joke. But then I understood that couldn’t be the case. They don’t take you out to the Water Grill just to make a joke.

“You want me to prosecute Jessup? From what I hear there’s nothing to prosecute. That case is a duck without wings. The only thing left to do is shoot it and eat it.”

Williams shook his head in a manner that seemed intended to convince himself of something, not me.

“Next Tuesday is the anniversary of the murder,” he said. “I’m going to announce that we intend to retry Jessup. And I would like you standing next to me at the press conference.”

I leaned back in my seat and looked at them. I’ve spent a good part of my adult life looking across courtrooms and trying to read juries, judges, witnesses and prosecutors. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. But at that table I couldn’t read Williams or his sidekick sitting three feet away from me.

Jason Jessup was a convicted child killer who had spent nearly twenty-four years in prison until a month earlier, when the California Supreme Court reversed his conviction and sent the case back to Los Angeles County for either retrial or a dismissal of the charges. The reversal came after a two-decade-long legal battle staged primarily from Jessup’s cell and with his own pen. Authoring appeals, motions, complaints and whatever legal challenges he could research, the self-styled lawyer made no headway with state and federal courts but did finally win the attention of an organization of lawyers known as the Genetic Justice Project. They took over his cause and his case and eventually won an order for genetic testing of semen found on the dress of the child Jessup had been convicted of strangling.

Jessup had been convicted before DNA analysis was used in criminal trials. The analysis performed these many years later determined that the semen found on the dress had not come from Jessup but from another unknown individual. Though the courts had repeatedly upheld Jessup’s conviction, this new information tipped the scales in Jessup’s favor. The state’s supreme court cited the DNA findings and other inconsistencies in the evidence and trial record and reversed the case.

This was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the Jessup case, and it was largely information gathered from newspaper stories and courthouse scuttlebutt. While I had not read the court’s complete order, I had read parts of it in the Los Angeles Times and knew it was a blistering decision that echoed many of Jessup’s long-held claims of innocence as well as police and prosecutorial misconduct in the case. As a defense attorney, I can’t say I wasn’t pleased to see the DA’s office raked over the media coals with the ruling. Call it underdog schadenfreude. It didn’t really matter that it wasn’t my case or that the current regime in the DA’s office had nothing to do with the case back in 1986, there are so few victories from the defense side of the bar that there is always a sense of communal joy in the success of others and the defeat of the establishment.

The supreme court’s ruling was announced the week before, starting a sixty-day clock during which the DA would have to retry or discharge Jessup. It seemed that not a day had gone by since the ruling that Jessup was not in the news. He gave multiple interviews by phone and in person at San Quentin, proclaiming his innocence and potshotting the police and prosecutors who put him there. In his plight, he had garnered the support of several Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes and had already launched a civil claim against both the city and county, seeking millions of dollars in damages for the many long years during which he was falsely incarcerated. In this day of nonstop media cycles, he had a never-ending forum and was using it to elevate himself to folk hero status. When he finally walked out of prison, he, too, would be a celebrity.

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