Saturday, September 20, 2008

Review: Defending the Damned by Kevin Davis

I borrowed this book from a co-worker. In fact, it's been slowly making its way around our office, since I am a Public Defender myself. I really, REALLY enjoyed this book. It is a non-fiction look at the attorneys in the Cook County, Illinois Public Defender's Office. It focuses specifically on the Murder Task Force, those attorneys who handle murder cases, where their clients are often faced with the ultimate penalty -- death. Even more specifically, it focuses on one Public Defender in particular: Marijane Placek. While telling the stories of several of the office's clients, the story of one client accused of murder, Aloysius Oliver, is woven throughout the other vignettes.

Perhaps it is because this is what I do for a living that I enjoyed the book so much. It certainly reminded me why I do what I do...because there are so many people in this country who have no voice, simply because they cannot afford one. Because it is easy to point the finger at someone, especially when the person at the other end of that finger is a police officer, and the person being pointed at is indigent. I definitely cried during portions of the book that hit particularly close to home. The book also put a fire under my ass, that's for sure, and I went into work after reading it, raring to go. My job is often difficult: no one likes you when you're a Public Defender, not even your clients. ESPECIALLY not your clients. And it gets hard, sometimes, to keep slogging away at what seems like an unwinnable fight, when the person you're fighting for doesn't respect or like you, or want to listen to what you have to say. This book helped me rekindle the optimism one really needs when doing what I do for a living. I want to buy a copy and keep it on my shelf for those days when the job just seems impossible. It would be wonderful to be able to dip into it and be reminded of the greater good I do, on the days when it seems there's no reason to even come to work in the morning.

The book would be great for anyone who enjoys true crime, or who has an interest in learning about the inner workings of the Public Defender's Office. I think it should be mandatory reading for anyone in this field. It illuminated some universal truths that all Public Defenders will relate to. I recognized some of the people in the book to be parallels with some folks I work with. While the editing could have used some work (LOTS of typos), I found Davis' writing style engaging and the facts of the cases kept me reading.

Recommended for non-fiction lovers.


Lil Spicy said...

Kevin does do speaking engagements and book signings. Perhaps you could get him to visit your area for such an event?

Lexi said...


Thank you! Maybe I'll ask my boss if we could have him speak at one of our monthly meetings.