Monday, December 27, 2010

Reading Table Progress

I'm definitely making the most of my vacation as far as my reading table goes.  After finishing Unbroken, I dove into Jim Brown's Justice Denied.  What a story!

Mr. Brown kindly sent me a signed copy of his book to read.  I'll admit, I didn't follow his story when it was happening in the late 90s and beyond.  Everyone was talking about Edwin Edwards and his fate, but I was totally unfamiliar with Brown's story.  That's just my own ignorance; it wasn't for lack of coverage.

Jim Brown, for those of you who are in the dark like I was, is a long-time Louisiana public servant.  He was an accomplished college athlete (track) and eventually found his way into public service, serving eight years as Louisiana Secretary of State and then twelve years as Commissioner of Insurance.  Brown thoroughly reformed the insurance office in Baton Rouge and made the department one of the most acclaimed and positively recognized departments in the country.  In short, Brown had led an exemplary life of public service.

That changed in 1999 when he was indicted on 56 counts of fraud.  By the end of his ordeal all but five had been dismissed but not before a grueling and incredibly unfair trial which was heard before an unheard of anonymous jury.  The veil of secrecy over Brown's entire trial would make up much of the basis for the appeal to come.  On top of that, Brown's defense team was denied copies of the handwritten FBI notes that would be used against him making the trial basically Brown's word against the FBI.

Louisiana is known for its political corruption but Brown is certainly an exception.  Nothing in his career ever indicated that he was one of "those" politicians and in fact, it was made clear during his trial that he committed no fraud whatsoever.  He was eventually convicted basically of lying to an FBI agent - although without access to those notes it was an insurmountable challenge for his defense team to defend him.

Brown's book is a compelling read and a real eye opener as to how a gross miscarriage of justice can occur.  It's also a story of perseverance and optimism - Brown never gave up hope that he would be exonerated.  He worked diligently with his lawyers on his trial and appeal and appropriately managed the outrage that must have consumed him. 

Today Mr. Brown is moving on.  He's told his story in his book (he was under a gag order during the trial and could not speak out in his own defense).  His website (and link to his radio program) is here.

As far as my reading table goes, I'm picking up Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars because that's about the only thing that could be stranger than Brown's tale.

No comments: