Schroeder seeks to contact Robbie Flak, Drumm’s attorney in Slone, Texas. Flak, wrapped up in the last days frenzy of trying to prevent an execution, brushes aside as just another irrelevant caller distracting his focus on keeping Drumm alive.Back in Kansas, Boyette suffering from a brain tumour, is manipulating Schroeder as he appears ready to go public and then backs away.
In Texas, having conducted several hundred executions, the finely tuned execution machinery is running smoothly. The Criminal Court of Appeal is dealing promptly with last minute appeals. The Governor, a staunch proponent of the death penalty, is reviewing a clemency petition. The prisons involved are following their standard procedures. It is close to a bureaucratic exercise.
Within Slone racial tensions rise with the white population convinced of guilt and the black citizens convinced of innocence.
Will the innocent Drumm be executed? Grisham takes the reader on a legal race against death. The pages flow swiftly. I sat on my deck long into a chilly evening unable to put the book down as the suspense builds and builds and builds. With death looming closer each day the tension steadily heightens.
In all his legal thrillers Grisham creates fascinating lawyers engaged in legal practice in an area of prominent public attention. Flak is no exception. He lives life Texas large with his practice devoted to fighting the battles of the common man in the courts of America. Drumm could not have a better advocate.
It is Grisham’s second foray into a lawyer fighting against execution. I believe The Chamber may have been Grisham’s best book. In that book there was no question of the inmate’s guilt. At issue was whether he should be executed.
In this death penalty book Grisham undoubtedly tackles the question of whether an innocent person can be executed in Texas because of the official statements in that state that there is no proof they have ever killed the wrong man or woman.
It happened in England 60 years ago when Timothy Evans was executed for murders actually committed by David Christie, a fellow tenant in the same house.
Within Canada we have gone through a series of cases in the last 15 years where it was determined that innocent men had been convicted. In Saskatchewan there was a case with many facts close to Grisham’s book. David Milgaard was a teenager convicted in Saskatoon, while I was in university in the same city, of the rape and murder of a nurse. His mother, aided by a courageous lawyer in Winnipeg, challenged the conviction for 22 years. A proper investigation and inquiry finally identified the real killer, a previously convicted rapist, and Milgaard was released. Had Milgaard lived in Texas he would have been executed long before he was exonerated.
As a lawyer I am grateful there is no capital punishment in Canada. The pressure on a lawyer defending an accused in a death penalty case is overwhelming. Over 80 years ago, when Canada still had the death penalty, one of Saskatchewan’s best lawyers who was later our Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, took a murder case to trial when he likely could have pursued a guilty plea to manslaughter. His client was convicted and hung.
It will be interesting to see if The Confession becomes a movie. It does not fit easily into the Hollywood mould.
If you start the book give yourself the time you need to read 450 pages. If not, you will find yourself changing schedules to find the time. Excellent. (May 29/11)