The Last Plea Bargain by Randy Singer

The Last Plea Bargain
by Randy Singer

In case you didn’t see it check out the book trailer I shared earlier. Interested? Now onto the review.

Randy Singer is a gifted writer and story-teller who writes with an insider’s perspective. Sure most of us have seen our fair share of Law and Order but that doesn’t give you the kind of knowledge that an experienced trial-lawyer like Randy Singer brings to the table.

The Last Plea Bargain starts with the death of the former showgirl and young wife of Caleb Tate, one of the most famous defense lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia. The circumstances look suspicious. A young prosecutor, Jamie Brock, who is known for her insistence on taking her cases to trial and not settling for a plea bargain that lessens the punishment for a criminal simply to grease the wheels of the justice system, takes this case as her personal mission. Not simply to seek justice for the victim, but also because Caleb Tate, the lawyer, also defended the man Jamie is convinced murdered her mother and nearly killed father just a few years earlier.

The story takes you through her own quest for justice while struggling to keep from falling prey to simply seeking vengeance. It reveals her own personal struggle, made even more difficult when she is confronted with unexpected revelations. She is left without knowing who to turn to for help. She is forced to question the very things and people she has most trusted in life.

The story is great. It will draw you in. It will keep you guessing right to the very end.

Also, one of the elements I had most appreciated about previous books I had read by Randy Singer was his ability to take a particular social issue (for example responsibility for gun control) and put it in narrative that forces you to question your presuppositions on the topic. The Last Plea Bargain does this as well with the issue of the death penalty. This issue just jumped back into the public consciousness with Amnesty International’s release of their 2011 report on the global use of capital punishment with the USA at #5. Where do you stand on this issue? Why? The narrative of the Last Plea Bargain will take you into the issue and examine the logic and emotions on both sides of the debate.

To speak critically though, a few of the  turns in the plot seemed a little forced. While plausible they were just a bit of a stretch in my opinion. There is a skill an author has that keeps you guessing, unable to predict the end all along, yet once you get to the end you think back and say “ahh!! how did I not see that?” I didn’t feel like that was the case here. The turns came but not as tightly wound as I would have preferred.

In the end it is a wonderful book. I would gladly recommend it for someone looking for an enjoyable and exciting legal novel.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book from Tyndale House. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.

Cultured Relationship Building

Yesterday I heard a really interesting illustration about the differences in the way that cultures invest in a relationship.

The speaker works with a number of different cultures and has observed differences in the way they handle relationships. He works with a number of East Africans and they value sharing space. So even if you are busy, they may just come and sit in your office for 20-30 minutes, you might not really say all that much but you’ve shared space and that is important for them in building the relationship. He also works with Turks and other Middle Easterners and they value conversation.  They will come and want to have a cup of tea and talk. You don’t necessarily need to “do” anything just spend time talking together. He also works with Westerners, Europeans and Americans, and when they come to see him it is always with an agenda. They want to do something, and have something to show for the time together.

When I took time to stop and think about it – I fully resonate with this. I feel awkward just going and sitting with someone and not doing something together. It does not seem meaningful to me and I find myself wanting to find someway to occupy myself and so pull out a gadget or find some other way to fill the time. Even just talking – if it doesn’t have a purpose – loses its enjoyment before too long. I want to deal with the issue or decide something and then move on.

This is not to say that the Western view is completely wrong. There is certainly great value in efficiency and minimizing “wasted time” in certain contexts. Yet, there are also other contexts where the ability to be still and just do nothing is of great value both for personal and relational growth.

Monday Mentions→

Here are some of the stories of interest over the last few days and heading into this next week.

Cruise Liner Capsizes –

A Carnival Cruise ship, the Costa Concordia wrecked over the weekend off the Western coast of Italy. The boat struck rocks that caused a massive hole in the side of the ship. Most of the 4,200 passengers on board were able to safely make it to shore. Unfortunately 6 have been confirmed dead. The wreck which occurred during calm seas and clear visibility is suspected to be due to human error. The captain is currently under extreme scrutiny and may face manslaughter charges in the case.

Huntsman drops out – The quest for the Republican presidential nominee is in full swing. Now that primary season has started we have results besides just opinion polls. After strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney seems to have delivered on the expectations that had him as the front runner throughout most of the past few months. The upcoming primary in South Carolina will be a significant indicator if there is a “anybody but Mitt” candidate to be found or if the party has begun to unite around Romney in hopes that he can defeat Obama this fall.

How to Focus – Ever have trouble focusing? You know, you need to write that paper and you do everything but. Or you just can’t wait to get into the novel, but you have to check the headlines and the sports scores and twitter. No? Okay, well this was great for me. Just a graphic with some practical ideas for how to focus.

BIG news in Chinese Politics – How big? Well, about 7’6 big. Former NBA player Yao Ming who retired after chronic injuries has begun to pursue involvement in Chinese Politics, among other things. At 31 he is now the youngest, and certainly the tallest, of the 142 members of an advisory committee to Shanghai’s legislature. Yao who is extremely popular in his homeland has also begun importing his own wine, from Napa, CA, and also enrolled in a University in his hometown of Shanghai.

Public Protest as a Road to Democracy?

We are all quite aware that 2011 was a year full of protests. I say “Arab Spring” and”Occupy” what do you think of? I picture crowds filling the streets. Chanting, screaming, yelling for change. Time was on to something when they named “The Protester” their person of the year. There was certainly a lot of noise.

What changed? Maybe you shoot back – what didn’t change? Ben Ali is gone. Mubarak is gone. Gadaffi is gone. Papandreou is gone. Burlusconi is gone. Even Kim Jong-il is gone. Okay, but what changed? What assurance is there that the public protests that pushed most of these out of office will in someway lead to something better for their countries? We know what has been torn down. What will be built up?

Within political sciences many have argued that the public protest is not actually a very likely candidate for moving a country from authoritarianism to democracy. Why would that be? What factors might stand in the way of a public protest leading to a democracy?

Let me at least give you five:

1. Lack of Leadership 

Authoritarian rulers do not appreciate challenges to their rule from other potential leaders. So what do they do? They repress leadership. Students are the universal opposition of regimes, in the words of Samuel Huntington. While certainly public protests have been more than just students, the young people do contribute a significant amount to the cause. Nor am I discounting the importance of young peoples movements. I’m in full support of students and youth taking an active role in the shaping of their society. However, if they are not able to create leaders who are able to reach a broader demographic than just the youth the protest may ultimately fail to produce.

2. Institutional Weakness

Another factor is that the authoritarian government controls nearly every aspect of civil life. Especially in single party regimes they monitor and control the institutions. The civil servants that run the daily affairs of the country are employed by the regime. A violent removal of all those elements leaves the country with weak institutions. During the transition period to a new government there must be some sort of civil institutions. In some societies these are able to operate under the rule of the regime. Whether they are labor unions, religious groups, etc. institutions and organizations will be an important part of a new society. If they are lacking or prove too weak then the prospects may be grim.

3. Factionalism

During protest movements we don’t often hear much about factionalism. There is a common goal – remove the current person from power. That is pretty much all that matters. Ideologies and principles take a back seat. However – once that goal is accomplished – factions come to the surface in the rebuilding phase. The ability for groups to form broad-based and effective coalitions will be crucial to a transition to a democratic government. If they are not able to do this then the factions will compete – with institutions that are not strong enough to handle the competition within the political arena – and the political movement that started out so well. That drew together people from all different backgrounds and ideologies will ultimately come to nothing. Worse than nothing it will produce instability.

4. Instability

 The period falling the removal of a regime is often marked by instability. One study (from the 1980s) looked at the transition after the removal of a long-ruling leader to determine if the way he was removed made a difference for the instability that followed. The most volatile and negative effects came about when he was overthrown. It is studies like these that inform the fears of outside countries who are cautious about supporting public protests of regimes. This is the charge leveled against the US for their foreign policy in the Middle East. That they will support an authoritarian regime rather than democracy to protect their interests. The evidence in many ways supports the conclusion that instability will follow. If a country persists in a period of instability for too long someone will step in to offer stability. Oftentimes this is the military and sometimes this creates a military regime. It happens not because that is what the public wanted but because they are the only ones who offer peace. This is especially true when violence is involved.

5. Use of Violence

One of the most crucial components is whether or not the opposition movement uses violence in their protest against the authoritarian regime. When they do the likelihood of producing a stable democracy decreases significantly. There are also studies that have shown that nonviolence is a more effective strategy than even a well-armed and well-organized resistance. A non-violent opposition is able to engender more support from more facets of society. It does not offer the regime any way to legitimize their use of force against the protesters. As many have pointed out having the military on your side – or at least not actively against you – is key to successfully removing the regime. Soldiers are less likely to join forces with those who have been throwing Molotov cocktails at them. It also sets the standard for what your goals and objectives are. If you are willing to stand by your principles in your efforts to achieve them.

So what do you need to go from the crowd chanting in the street to the crowd casting votes at the ballot box to the crowd living in a secure, stable, and democratic society? Leadership, institutions and organizations, a willingness to work together and not default to factionalism, minimize the instability, and a rejection of violent methods.

Is it a guarantee of a transition to democracy? No. Is it going to make it easier? No. But it offers the best hope that the public protests will be part of putting the country on a road to democracy.

Public Protest as a Road to Democracy – References

Monday’s Links→

Over the weekend I spent some time thinking and talking over the schedule for posting and think I have it worked out. Rather than spell it out here, I’ll put it into practice and let you figure it out!

To start of the week here are some links to interesting or otherwise notable articles. (In time maybe I’ll come up with a catchy or corny title for it like “Monday Mentions” or “Lead-off Links” or something like that)

So here you go…

A Brother’s Reflection on His Brother’s death – This is now a few weeks old but I read it this morning and found it quite gripping. It is the response of Peter Hitchens on the death of his brother Christopher Hitchens. The way he describes his brother is: Courageous.

“Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to. […] I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.”

A Top Military Man Arrested – For those who have followed Turkish politics at all this is a fairly significant development. There is a positive development of more transparency and civilian oversight of the military but also a negative trend of arbitrary arrests and an abuse of the judicial system. It’s a story to watch.

Goodbye Google, Facebook, and Twitter – Can you imagine if all three of those services shut down? Just gone? What would it do to you? I know much of my communication with friends and family around the world is run through those services. It could happen. Why? It is being discussed as a protest to SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) that will fundamentally change the way the internet works. It is an interesting – and perhaps sobering idea.

Iran Sentences an American to Death – American Amir Mirzaei Hekmati has been sentenced to death for allegedly spying on Iran for the CIA. Iran again seems to be occupying a lot of headline space in American media. It is definitely a country to keep your eye on. Although Fareed Zakaria offers his opinion that Iran is in fact growing weaker.

BRONCOS WIN – It just seems appropriate! Last night was a GREAT football game. The Broncos won an overtime. There are a lot of story lines from this season (most involve Tim Tebow in one way or another). Now on to face the New England Patriots (again).

Broncos Legend and Current VP John Elway and QB Tim Tebow