Friday, November 15, 2013

Directed Verdict

I just completed the novel Directed Verdict by Randy Singer. This is the first of his books that I have read, but he has now written more than a dozen since this 2002 offering, his first. Singer has an extensive background as a trial lawyer, and this book includes a fair amount of courtroom related drama. The story begins with an American missionary couple in Saudi Arabia. Sarah and Charles Reed are working to spread Christianity in that nation. They are targeted by the nation's Islamic "religion police" known as the Muttawa. The couple is tortured and Charles is killed. The head of the Muttawa, a scowling stock character named Ahmed Aberijan, sets the Reeds up as drug dealers and Sarah is deported.

Back in the states, we are introduced to a small time, but reasonably successful lawyer named Brad Carson. Brad is participating in a law school exercise on international law with a big-time lawyer named Mack Strobel from a big-time law firm. There Brad meets a student named Leslie Connors, and they develop a bit of a rapport. A chance encounter between Brad and Sarah Reed, ultimately leads Brad to file suit on behalf of Sarah and Charles against both Ahmed Aberijan and the nation of Saudi Arabia. Brad, who has no experience in the dealings of international law, asks Leslie to join him as co-counsel in the case. It turns out that the opposing counsel is Mack Strobel.

In this novel there are several different story arcs. Of course, we have the drama in the court room, including a surly judge who has a strong dislike for Brad, and who maybe has been influenced by a member of the defense team with promises of a district court position. We also have the goings-on of the members of Brad's prosecution team. Given that the defense is secretly being fed key information and prosecution witnesses are being discredited by inside information, it certainly seems that one of them has been corrupted. Finally, we have the growing personal relationship between Brad and Leslie.

I thought that I had figured out who was up to what about two thirds of the way into the story and what their motives were. However, Singer had a few surprises for me that only developed at the very end. This was a decent read that kept me turning the pages. There were some touching elements of Christian faith being shown in some very difficult situations, amid some very brutual persecution. However, I think that the most lasting effect from reading this story are the feelings of frustration and unease I felt regarding the U.S. justice system. I worry not only about corruption of court officials, jury members, and the lawyers, but also about how final declarations of guilt and innocence seem to be totally predicated by the skills and tricks of the lawyers more so than the true facts of the case.