Written originally as a “Sunday Serial” in the New York Times Magazine, this story bears the identifying earmarks of a Turow novel, in this instance a case that is up for appeal, the core argument revolving around the statute of limitations, a pivotal factor in addressing the appeal process.
In this courtroom drama, although the case is sensational, it is pared down to bare-bones legal arguments: four young men are facing a future defined by the resolution of their actions one evening in high school, although they are now in college and looking forward to the rest of their lives. However, the specter of rape and racism looms large, their heinous actions revealed through the hubris of one of them.
The presiding judge of the three-member appellate review panel is George Mason, acutely aware of the social significance of the panel’s decision. Besides the statute of limitations, also at issue is a videotape made by the perpetrators, the instigator of the rape occasionally showing the video to his fraternity brothers for their entertainment.
This indiscretion ultimately lands the perpetrator and the others in the courtroom, where both the victim’s age and state of mind are important considerations. Meanwhile, the city of Glen Brae is in an uproar, the citizens reluctant to reveal the ugly scars of such a degrading crime by their brightest young men.
At the end of a ten-year term, Mason is undecided about whether to run again; when his wife is diagnosed with cancer, he is even more confused. Facing a thorny issue in this case, Mason is confronted on both the professional and personal areas of his life, including a recent series of threats of physical harm sent through his email in the office and at home and alarming text messages through his cell phone.
Torn between resolving the case in a timely manner and his wife’s treatment program, Mason is assaulted by the increasing threats, his refuge in work now disturbed as well. Mason’s only concession is to Court Security, in the person of the formidable Marina Giornale, a woman determined to protect the judge from anyone who means to do harm to Mason or his family. Unfortunately, Mason’s security is only as good as his cooperation, and he is unwilling to entirely give up his autonomy.
This extended appellate brief is enjoyable, especially Turow’s treatment of the arguments in this legal thriller with a violent edge, the characters vehicles for each point of view. For those who enjoy the workings of the author’s methodical legal mind, this shorter work retains the same appeal and subtle balance of politics, the judicial system, and the tricky moral dilemmas that plague mankind in today’s world of ethical quagmires.