Decades of Doubt, by Eric Wilson and John Turner ISBN 9781943275366
Four out of five stars
This is a book about the murder of a teenage boy in the late sixties where the investigation was generally dormant but then suddenly revived and a man was charged with the murder and the trial took place in 2013. What is odd about the case is that there was no new hard evidence in the sense of DNA, blood or other findings due to the subsequent advance of forensic science. The sudden change was due to the altered testimony of one of the boys that knew the victim. The case received national attention as a CBS 48 Hours Murder Mystery.
Eric Wilson was the lead defense attorney in the trial and this book is generally written in the form of a third person narrative. However, there are sections clearly labeled as “Ex Parte” where the presentation is a narrative by Wilson.
The presentation style can be summed up by two brief passages, the first is from the back cover that is in essence repeated in the text.
“A handsome, high-profile and tenacious defense attorney (Wilson).”
The second is from page 362.
“Eric’s decision to have Dr. Tom Andrew testify last was a brilliant one.”
Insignificant if written by a true third party, but not when the author is the one being described.
The sections of the trial are generally laudatory of Wilson, recitations of his effectiveness as an attorney. There is little in the way of hints at something Wilson did wrong, not even in the slightest. When another man is tried for the same murder and convicted based on the same evidence, the explanations are that the defense attorney was simply not as good as Wilson.
As you read the description of the case and the trial, the impression is that this was a case of the zeal of a detective and a prosecutor in their goal of solving a cold case getting ahead of the evidence. There was nothing new, only 40-year-old memories of a traumatic event. With the exception of eidetic memories, recollections fade over such lengthy intervals and some of the earlier investigators were themselves deceased. The relative ease of the not guilty verdict is understandable.
There are some looks inside the legal system in this book that are illuminating. The tactics of the prosecuting and defense attorneys in trying to emotionally sway the members of the jury are right out of dramatizations of legal proceedings. Investigators focusing on what they believe and not following other promising leads is also a reminder of how things can go wrong.
This book was received for free for review purposes.