If I ran a law school, I’d make incoming students read this book.
Here’s Wikipedia’s description of the crime at the center of the book:
On March 9, 1963, LAPD officers Campbell and Karl Hettinger pulled over a car containing two suspicious-looking men on a Hollywood street. The two men, Jimmy Lee Smith (aka "Jimmy Youngblood") and Gregory Ulas Powell, had recently committed a string of robberies. Powell, the driver, pulled a gun on Campbell and ordered Hettinger to surrender his gun to Smith. The two officers were then forced into Powell’s car and driven to an onion field around Bakersfield . . .
Campbell is murdered in the onion field.
Smith and Powell begin a long stint of spending time in courtrooms. They’re arrested and convicted just as Eisenhower’s boy, Earl Warren, is getting things going. Juries keep convicting them and Judges keep finding reasons why they need new trials. Normally you’d think it would take criminals a while to adapt to a new legal system, but these guys seemed to understand the new system perfectly. They basically stopped trying to prove that they didn’t commit the crimes and instead starting trying to find grounds for appeals. The new possibilities for appeals were basically endless.
Hettinger lapses into severe depression. The aftermath is probably worse for him than for anyone else – obviously it’s best for the criminals, it was the ’60s after all.
The story has a bit of everything: robbery, drugs, the worst (or best) attorney of all time (he drives away a bunch of judges and even gets some other attorneys to quit the practice of law), scandals with the jury, random changes to the law, murder, re-trials, changes in police tactics, etc.
Both men were initially sentenced to death. Of course neither was executed. Unbelievably, Smith was eventually released though he ended up back in jail a bunch times and he eventually died there. Powell is still alive in prison, I think.
Both the criminals are completely worthless, but in interestingly different ways. Powell is a sociopath, while Jimmy Smith just seemed to go along with Powell. I still can’t decide which is worse.