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During the quarter century when I was practicing criminal defense, I represented clients in a dozen death penalty cases, so I know firsthand the pressure an attorney is under when a client’s life is literally on the line. In two separate murder cases, I learned that horrible mistakes can be made in the most serious cases when I represented innocent clients who had been sentenced to life in prison. I was able to clear the names of both men, but I wouldn’t wish on anyone the pressure I was under.

There is no more important job in the legal profession than making sure that people facing the death penalty get a fair trial. People do not get rich doing it, and it takes a toll. That’s why I am dedicating this book to organizations like the Innocence Project, the Equal Justice Initiative, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP, and all of the attorneys who take on capital cases.


The rain pounded on Ian Hennessey’s windshield with the fury of a drum solo, making it almost impossible to see the road. It seemed like Ian’s bad day was never going to end.

The day hadn’t started badly. It had actually started as one of Ian’s best days. Shortly after court began, the young deputy district attorney had won a difficult motion to suppress. That victory had prompted the defendant to plead guilty in a case Ian was worried he might lose. His next case had resulted in another plea, ending his morning docket with two victories.

Ian left the courtroom with a big smile on his face. He was on his way to his office to boast about his victories when he received a phone call. An hour later, he was basking in the afterglow of the best sex he’d ever experienced. Then Ian’s wonderful day took a 180-degree turn, and the woman he loved threatened to destroy his life.

People sometimes said that they were in hell. Ian really felt that he was as close as you could come to the real thing. He knew that he wasn’t the best person. He’d listened to the podcasts and read the online articles about his generation. How they felt entitled and wanted it all right away without working for their goals like past generations. Ian fit the stereotype. His wealthy parents had indulged their only child and used their influence to get him places he didn’t deserve to be. And he had taken what they’d given without an ounce of gratitude. Then he’d been given a job he didn’t deserve and had taken for granted at first but had come to love; a job that could be ripped away from him at any moment, through no fault of his own.

“Turn here,” said Anthony Carasco.

Ian turned onto Carasco’s street, where multimillion-dollar mansions stood on large, manicured lots. Ian was surprised at how poor the street lighting was, considering the wealth of the people who lived here. Even with his brights on, the downpour was so powerful that he was having a hard time seeing the road. That’s why Ian was shocked when his high beams fell on a man who was standing in the middle of the street. Ian hit the brakes. The man froze in the glare, then threw an arm across his face.

“Who was that?” Carasco shouted as the apparition shot across the street and into the woods.

“I have no idea,” was Ian’s bewildered reply.

“It looked like he was coming from my house,” Carasco said.

Ian pulled into the driveway, and his passenger jumped out. Ian followed him inside, and his bad day got a lot worse.




Anthony Carasco was five seven with a slight build, dull brown hair, and bland features that made him hard to call to mind a day after you met him. When he was sober, Carasco was objective enough to know that it wasn’t his looks that made him attractive to women. But Carasco had a buzz on, and that’s why no warning bells went off when a stunning blonde with ivory skin, pouty red lips, sky-blue eyes, and a killer figure sat on the stool next to him in the bar in the San Francisco hotel and began making conversation.

“It’s really dead in here,” the blonde said.

“That’s because everyone is at the bar at the Fairmont,” Carasco answered.

“Why is that?”

“The American Bar Association convention is over there.”

“Are you a lawyer?” the blonde asked.

“I am. How about you?”

“I thought about it once, but it’s not for me. So, why are you here when your fellow lawyers are over there?”

“Too noisy,” Carasco said as he flashed a drunken smile. Then he held out his hand. “Tony Carasco.”

“Stacey Hayes,” the blonde said, returning the smile and holding Carasco’s hand a moment more than most women would. “Noise isn’t the only reason a man drinks alone,” she said when she released Carasco’s hand. “What’s the real reason?”

Carasco hesitated. Normally, he was very private, but he was a bit tipsy, and he was certain that he would never see Stacey Hayes again.

“It’s my wife. She called right before I was going down to the bar at the Fairmont, and we had another argument.” He shrugged. “After she hung up on me, I wasn’t in the mood to socialize.”

“That’s too bad.”

“It’s too bad we’re married,

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