A prosecutor explores the criminal justice system, exploring its “humanlike qualities.”

As a veteran prosecutor in Riverside, Calif., Strunsky has long labored in the trenches of the law. He puts that experience to good use in his book, which is full of valuable insight into the system, much of it drawn from cases he has tried. Strunsky is not a typical, Law & Order prosecutor; he’s sensitive to the nuances of the system that are “rarely explored or recognized.” For Strunsky, a trial is not a cold, clinical exercise but a cauldron of feelings. “[H]uman emotion is incredibly influential in the courtroom,” he notes. His case narratives capture those emotions. For example, in the case of two sisters who recant their allegations of molestation on the witness stand, the author writes, “The question that still haunts me is, What if the two girls hadn’t come clean and confessed?” Strunsky approaches juries as a storyteller, and he brings the same compelling quality to his writing. During a murder trial, he sets the scene: A man who had just killed his wife in a hot tub, “stepped into his suede-like moccasin slippers…and stopped to stare down at [her] lifeless body, partially obscured by soap bubbles and the turbulence of the spa jets.” In another dramatic passage, Strunsky recalls how he made legal history by piercing the clergy-penitent privilege in the case of a Jehovah’s Witness accused of child molestation. The defendant had made admissions to a church elder. “We can’t allow this exemption to shield child molesters,” Strunsky argues. The author also takes on such hot-button subjects as capital punishment and handgun control. “Because someone had a small, easy-to-carry ‘high-speed bullet dispenser’ at his fingertips, a shouting match turned into an irreversible death,” he says of one murder case. Some readers might find some of the graphic detail in the book a bit raw. But Strunsky’s singular achievement is to free the criminal justice system from the distortions of Hollywood and show it as it really is.

Provides valuable insights and vividly captures the human drama of criminal cases.

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