Excerpt from Reversible Errors by Scott Turow, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Reversible Errors

By Scott Turow

Reversible Errors
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2002,
    448 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2003,
    576 pages.

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Chapter 1

APRIL 20, 2001
Attorney and Client


The client, like most clients, said he was innocent. He was scheduled to die in thirty-three days.

Arthur Raven, his lawyer, was determined not to worry. After all, Arthur reasoned, he was not even a volunteer. Instead, he'd been drafted by the federal appellate court to ensure that after ten years of litigation, no sound arguments remained to save Rommy Gandolph's life. Worrying was not part of the job.

He was worried anyway.

"I'm sorry?" asked Pamela Towns, his young associate, from the passenger's seat. A gurgle of anguish had escaped Arthur as he had come, once again, face-to-face with himself.

"Nothing," said Arthur. "I just hate being the designated loser."

"Then we shouldn't lose." Pamela, with rosy good looks fit for TV news, flashed a bright coast-to-coast grin.

They were far from the city now, doing eighty on cruise control in Arthur's new German sedan. In these parts, the road was so flat and straight, he did not even have to touch the wheel. The prairie farmlands raced by, corn stubble and loam, silent and eternal in the wan light of morning. They had left Center City at seven to beat the traffic. Arthur hoped to hold a brief introductory meeting with their new client, Rommy Gandolph, at the state penitentiary at Rudyard and to be back at his desk by two o'clock -- or three, if be decided to risk asking Pamela to lunch. He remained intensely conscious of the young woman nearby, of the tawny hair falling softly on her shoulders and of the hand that crept to her thigh every several miles to retract the hiking of her tartan skirt.

Eager as he was to please her, Arthur could offer little hope for the case.

"At this stage," he said, "under the law, the only thing that could possibly amount to reversible error would be new evidence of actual innocence. And we're not going to find that."

"How do you know?" asked Pamela.

"How do I know? Because the man confessed to everybody but the Daily Planet." Ten years ago, Gandolph had copped to the police, then gave a handwritten statement to the prosecutor, Muriel Wynn and finally repeated his admissions on videotape. On each occasion, he had acknowledged he was the person who'd shot two men and a woman and left them in a restaurant food locker in a case still referred to, in the tempered words of the press, as 'the Fourth of July Massacre.'

"Well, he kept saying on the phone he's innocent," said Pamela. "It's possible, isn't it?"

For Arthur, who had been a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney before coming to work seven years ago at O'Grady, Steinberg, Marconi and Horgan, there was no possibility of that at all. But Pamela, at twenty-five or twenty-six, had just started practice. Saving an innocent client was the sort of adventure she'd imagined in law school, riding like Joan of Arc toward radiant justice. Instead, she'd settled for a big law firm and $120,000 a year. But why not have everything? Well, you couldn't blame people for their fantasies. God knows, Arthur Raven realized that.

"Listen to what I found in Rommy's probation records," said Pamela. "On July 5, 1991, he was sentenced to time served for a violation of probation. The murders were early on July 4th. So 'time served' would mean he was in jail, wouldn't it?"

"It would mean he was in jail at some point. Not necessarily on July 4th. Does his rap sheet show he was in jail on July 4th?"

"No. But it's something to investigate, isn't it?"

It would have been something to investigate a decade ago, when the records to prove it was nonsense still existed. Yet even at that, the federal appeals court was likely to grant Gandolph a brief stay of execution, during which Arthur and Pamela would be obliged to scramble in dogged -- and futile -- pursuit of this phantom theory.

Copyright © 2002 Scott Turow

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