Defense attorney Mickey Haller is forced to bend the law until it breaks when he is hired to defend a man accused of killing a prostitute in this novel of courtroom suspense, the "best one yet" ( The Washington Post). Mickey Haller gets the text, "Call me ASAP - 187," and the California penal code for murder immediately gets his attention. Murder cases have the highest stakes and the biggest paydays, and they always mean Haller has to be at the top of his game. When Mickey learns that the victim was his own former client, a prostitute he thought he had rescued and put on the straight and narrow path, he knows he is on the hook for this one. He soon finds out that she was back in LA and back in the life. Far from saving her, Mickey may have been the one who put her in danger. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Mickey must work tirelessly and bring all his skill to bear on a case that could mean his ultimate redemption or proof of his ultimate guilt. The Gods of Guilt shows once again why "Michael Connelly excels, easily surpassing John Grisham in the building of courtroom suspense" ( Los Angeles Times).
October 7, 2013
Little, Brown and Company
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The Gods of Guilt--Free Preview: The First 8 Chapters
I approached the witness stand with a warm and welcoming smile. This, of course, belied my true intent, which was to destroy the woman who sat there with her eyes fixed on me. Claire Welton had just identified my client as the man who had forced her out of her Mercedes E60 at gunpoint on Christmas Eve last year. She said he was the one who then shoved her to the ground before taking off with the car, her purse, and all the shopping bags she had loaded into the backseat at the mall. As she had just told the prosecutor who questioned her, he had also made off with her sense of security and self-confidence, even though for these more personal thefts he had not been charged.
“Good morning, Mrs. Welton.”
She said the words like they were synonyms for please don’t hurt me. But everyone in the courtroom knew it was my job to hurt her today and thereby hurt the state’s case against my client, Leonard Watts. Welton was in her sixties and matronly. She didn’t look fragile but I had to hope she was.
Welton was a Beverly Hills housewife and one of three victims who were roughed up and robbed in a pre-Christmas crime spree resulting in the nine charges against Watts. The police had labeled him the “Bumper Car Bandit,” a strong-arm thief who followed targeted women from the malls, bumped into their cars at stop signs in residential neighborhoods, and then took their vehicles and belongings at gunpoint when they stepped out of their cars to check for damage. He then pawned or resold all the goods, kept any cash, and dropped the cars off at chop shops in the Valley.
But all of that was alleged and hinged on someone identifying Leonard Watts as the culprit in front of the jury. That was what made Claire Welton so special and the key witness of the trial. She was the only one of the three victims who pointed Watts out to the jury and unequivocally claimed that he was the one, that he did it. She was the seventh witness presented by the prosecution in two days but as far as I was concerned she was the only witness. She was the number one pin. And if I knocked her down at just the right angle, all the other pins would go down with her.
I needed to roll a strike here or the jurors who were watching would send Leonard Watts away for a very long time.
I carried a single sheet of paper with me to the witness stand. I identified it as the original crime report created by a patrol officer who was first to respond to the 911 call placed by Claire Welton from a borrowed cell phone after the carjacking occurred. It was already part of the state’s exhibits. After asking for and receiving approval from the judge, I put the document down on the ledge at the front of the witness stand. Welton leaned away from me as I did this. I was sure most members of the jury saw this as well.
I started asking my first question as I walked back to the lectern between the prosecution and defense tables.
“Mrs. Welton, you have there the original crime report taken on the day of the unfortunate incident in which you were victimized. Do you remember talking with the officer who arrived to help you?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
“You told him what happened, correct?”
“Yes. I was still shaken up at the—”
“But you did tell him what happened so he could put a report out about the man who robbed you and took your car, is that correct?”
“That was Officer Corbin, correct?”
“I guess. I don’t remember his name but it says it on the report.”
“But you do remember telling the officer what happened, correct?”
“And he wrote down a summary of what you said, correct?”
“Yes, he did.”
“And he even asked you to read the summary and initial it, didn’t he?”
“Yes, but I was very nervous.”
“Are those your initials at the bottom of the summary paragraph on the report?”
“Mrs. Welton, will you now read out loud to the jury what Officer Corbin wrote down after talking with you?”
Welton hesitated as she studied the summary before reading it.
Kristina Medina, the prosecutor, used the moment to stand and object.
“Your Honor, whether the witness initialed the officer’s summary or not, counsel is still trying to impeach her testimony with writing that is not hers. The people object.”
Judge Michael Siebecker narrowed his eyes and turned to me.
“Judge, by initialing the officer’s report, the witness adopted the statement. It is present recollection recorded and the jury should hear it.”
Siebecker overruled the objection and instructed Mrs. Welton to read the initialed statement from the report. She finally complied.
“ ‘Victim stated that she stopped at the intersection of Camden and Elevado and soon after was struck from behind by a car that pulled up. When she opened her door to get out and check for damage, she was met by a black male thirty to thirty-five YOA—’ I don’t know what that means.”
“Years of age,” I said. “Keep reading, please.”
“ ‘He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her the rest of the way out of the car and to the ground in the middle of the street. He pointed a black, short-barrel revolver at her face and told her he would shoot her if she moved or made any sound. The suspect then jumped into her car and drove off in a northerly direction, followed by the car that had rear-ended her vehicle. Victim could offer no…”
I waited but she didn’t finish.
“Your Honor, can you instruct the witness to read the entire statement as written on the day of the incident?”
“Mrs. Welton,” Judge Siebecker intoned. “Please continue to read the statement in its entirety.”
“But, Judge, this isn’t everything I said.”
“Mrs. Welton,” the judge said forcefully. “Read the entire statement as the defense counselor asked you to do.”
Welton relented and read the last sentence of the summary.
“ ‘Victim could offer no further description of the suspect at this time.’ ”
“Thank you, Mrs. Welton,” I said. “Now, while there wasn’t much in the way of a description of the suspect, you were from the start able to describe in detail the gun he used, isn’t that right?”
“I don’t know about how much detail. He pointed it at my face so I got a good look at it and was able to describe what I saw. The officer helped me by describing the difference between a revolver and the other kind of gun. I think an automatic, it’s called.”
“And you were able to describe the kind of gun it was, the color, and even the length of the ba. . .
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The Gods of Guilt--Free Preview: The First 8 Chapters