Chicago was the nation's deadliest city in 2001, recording 666 homicides. For lawyers in the Cook County Public Defender's Office Murder Task Force, that meant a steady flow of new clients. Eight out of ten people arrested for murder in Chicago are represented by public defenders. They're assigned the most challenging and seemingly hopeless cases, yet they always fight to win.
One of those lawyers is Marijane Placek, a snakeskin boot-wearing, Shakespeare-quoting nonconformist whose courtroom bravado and sharp legal skills have made her a well-known figure around the courthouse. When an ex-convict was arrested on charges of killing a Chicago police officer that deadly year, Placek got the high-profile case, and her defense forms the hub around which the book's narrative revolves.
Veteran journalist Kevin Davis reveals the compelling true story of a team of battle-scarred lawyers fighting against all odds. Unflinching, gripping, and full of surprises, Defending the Damned is an unforgettable human story and engaging courtroom drama where life and death hang in the balance. Davis explores the motives that compel these lawyers to come to work in this dark corner of the criminal justice system and exposes their insular and often misunderstood world.
This groundbreaking work comes at a time when the country has seen how wrongful convictions have slipped through the system, that innocent people have been sent to death row, and that some police have lied or coerced suspects into confessing to crimes they did not commit. Such flaws drive these public defenders even harder to do their jobs, providing scrutiny to a long ignored and often broken system.
Davis's reporting offers an unvarnished account of public defenders as never seen before. A powerful melding of courtroom drama and penetrating truecrime journalism, Defending the Damned is narrative nonfiction at its finest.
Kevin Davis is an award-winning journalist based in Chicago. He covered crime and courts for more than a decade and has written for newspapers and magazines including USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Chicago magazine, Crain's Chicago Business, USA Weekend, and many other publications.
"Kevin Davis gets so far inside the story that you would swear he was sitting right there at the defense table. With a journalist's keen eye for telling detail and dialogue, he has written a completely gripping and revealing assessment of what is not only going on in our courtrooms but in our society as well. Defending the Damned is a great and important book." -- Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of Echo Park
"Stunningly real and poetically unromantic, Defending the Damned delivers us into a world of accused monsters and the complex souls who have sworn to stand by them. Davis's subjects trust him -- an astonishing result in a part of Chicago where trust disappears first -- and he hears everything they say." -- Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers
"In his remarkable narrative, Kevin Davis uncovers the true heroes of the court system. This is one of those rare books that will change your mind about lawyers." -- Gerry Spence, bestselling author of How to Argue and Win Every Time
"With a true journalist's reverence for truth and accuracy, Kevin Davis presents a raw and real version of the way our legal system works from a side that rarely comes into the light, but one our democracy cannot survive without." -- Jonathon King, Edgar Award-winning crime novelist and author of Eye of Vengeance
"Kevin Davis brings the reader into Chicago's courtrooms and into the lives of the lawyers who handle the criminal justice system's toughest cases. Defending the Damned reads like a fast-paced novel but delivers with realism and compassion a compelling, insider's look into capital murder trials." -- Alafair Burke, author of Close Case