Alex Madison, both local preacher and lawyer, finds his life turning upside down when he takes on the case of defending a local Muslim imam accused of ordering an honor killing of a woman in his mosque. Torn between wanting to defend a man who he believes is innocent to issues that might come up as a result of defending him, Alex decides he must stay true to his late grandfather’s motto, “A lawyer’s highest duty is to defend an innocent client.”
Fatal Convictions is one of those can’t put down books. Just when you think you have it figured out, the author throws another sucker punch that leaves you thinking. Many moral questions are raised as the book goes on. After the 9/11 attacks, America has been on guard against terrorists and because of that, it’s difficult to avoid racial profiling. In the case of Khalid Mobassar, prominent Muslim leader, can the courts stand by their mantra of innocent until proven guilty? I believe it’s definitely tested to the max.
The reminder that I came away with after finishing this book, is that you can’t lump everyone of the same people group into one category. It’s simply not fair. I am again reminded of that dreadful day on September 11th. I was in route to a Muslim nation when those attacks happened. I was scared out of my mind and that fear grew when I looked around the plane and saw we were the only Americans on there. My fear grew into surprise and gratitude once I reached my destination. I was met with such sincere sympathy at what had been done to my home country.
This book is an excellent read. It was definitely one of those can’t-put-down kind of books that leaves you thinking about and examining your own beliefs. An A+ rating for sure!
Thus, the imam whom Alex defends is an ardent reformer (or at least he appears to be). For the nuances of this character, I relied heavily on the Islamic reformers portrayed in Joel Rosenberg’s excellent book Inside the Revolution. But there’s also a main character in Fatal Convictions named Hassan Ibn Talib, who is a committed Islamic radical. To portray Hassan accurately, I spent time with Kamal Saleem, a former Islamic terrorist and probably the most intense man I’ve ever met. With Kamal’s permission, I patterned the childhood, terrorist training and spiritual beliefs of my character after Kamal. In addition to this type of research, I’ve also spent time in Beirut, Lebanon, visiting my daughter who worked there with a ministry organization.
Honor killing has found its way to the shores of America as well. For example, Fox News recently did a report on teenagers Amina and Sarah Said who were apparently killed by their father on New Year’s Day 2008 because they dated non-Muslim boys. There’s also the case of Faleh Almaleki in Arizona, who brutally beat his own daughter and then ran over her in his SUV to prevent her from dishonoring the family by adopting an American lifestyle. “For an Iraqi,” he said, “honor is the most valuable thing. No one messed up our life except Noor.” Sadly, Faleh’s wife supported him.
But the second reason I pick these kinds of areas is that I want to challenge readers to look at things through a slightly different lens. On controversial issues like these, we tend to construct a lot of automatic defenses and reactions when somebody asks us to look at these issues in a non-fiction context. But stories bypass those intellectual defenses and go right to the heart. And sometimes, by putting ourselves in the shoes of a character in the story, we can see these important issues from a slightly different perspective.
Isn’t that what Jesus did—address the hot button issues, like the legalism of the Pharisees, by telling a story? After all, who do you think the older brother represented in the story of the prodigal son?
First, by remembering that as a lawyer, you are not the judge and jury. Many times, somebody will “appear” guilty at first blush, even though they are actually innocent. Under our system, as you mentioned, everybody is entitled to an advocate.
But second, for the Christian lawyer, by focusing on mercy and grace while realizing that it’s the job of the prosecutor to focus on bringing this person to justice. Look at the example of Jesus in John, chapter 8, when he advocated for the woman caught in the very act of adultery. Under the law, she was guilty. But Christ was able to save her through a “technicality” (let him who is without sin cast the first stone) and then he counseled her to “go and sin no more.” This is the model for Christian lawyers who find themselves in the same circumstances—advocate and counsel.
And we should also remember that nobody ever talks about taking away religious liberty, they just redefine what it means. Right now, we see that sharing your faith with somebody else, what the cynics call “proselytizing,” is frowned upon. So political correctness tries to redefine religious liberty to say you can believe what you want but nobody should try to impose their religion on someone else. That sounds a lot better than saying “no evangelizing,” but it means pretty much the same thing. And so we see lots of attempts to keep people from sharing their faith in various contexts.
Most people don’t realize that 95% of the criminal cases in our country are disposed of by plea bargains. This book asks the question: What if the defendants in a certain jurisdiction banded together and decided not to plea bargain, insisting on a full jury trial for every case? It would overwhelm the system. There wouldn’t be enough prosecutors or public defenders or available court dates. Even the defendants who lost would be able to claim ineffective assistance of counsel or the lack of a speedy trial on appeal.
The Last Plea Bargain is a sequel to False Witness and continues the story of Jamie Brock, a young prosecutor. Because Jamie’s own mother was killed in a violent home invasion, Jamie takes every case personally. Unlike other prosecutors, she refuses to even consider plea bargains. And she has a longstanding personal vendetta against defense attorney Bosworth Tate, the man who represented Jamie’s mother’s killer.
When Tate is arrested for allegedly poisoning his wife, Jamie talks the district attorney into allowing her to handle the case. But when he is confined to jail, Tate rallies the other inmates and they all begin rejected plea bargains. Those who don’t are punished or killed by their fellow inmates. Snitches who cut a plea and get released are killed on the streets. Fear causes other would-be-snitches to clam up. And the criminal justice system grinds to a halt.
There is one way to break the logjam. But for Jamie Brock, it would violate every ideal that has governed her young career. To convict the devil, sometimes you’ve got to cut a deal with a few of his demons.
This book is the story of an advocate who stands up for a client when, from all appearances, the man should be condemned. Come to think of it, that’s the story of my life.
“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only for our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:1-2.
I hope that gives you a glimpse into this great read! And now for some fun stuff! A giveaway! You know how I love giveaways, so I’m very happy to offer to one lucky reader a certificate good for your very own copy of Fatal Convictions! But wait, there’s more! You will also win a book plate signed by the author! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and make sure I have a way to contact you. Giveaway will end Friday, September 3rd at 9 PM CST. Unfortunately this giveaway is limited to US addresses only. Good luck, friends!
Update…The random number generator chose courtney*adele. Congratulations!