Excerpt: Lawyer Games After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

About the Book:

LAWYER GAMES is the TRUE story of the murder case that gave rise to the book and Clint Eastwood directed motion picture, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. But this book goes far beyond the boundaries of a single murder case. No reader of LAWYER GAMES will ever again look the same way at a criminal trial.

In the early morning of May 2, 1981, Danny Hansford was shot dead by James Williams with a World War II vintage Luger in a historic Savannah mansion. For the next eight-and-a-half years, through four murder trials and intrigue which reached the highest levels of Georgia politics-including a former governor and the Georgia Supreme Court-lawyers battled over whether the 50-year-old Williams shot the 21-year-old Hansford in self-defense.

Written by Dep Kirkland, who arrived at the scene when Hansford’s body was still on the floor, Lawyer Games is the true story of this remarkable case. Kirkland, the Chief Assistant DA at the time, made the decision to arrest Williams and tried the first of four murder trials alongside the district attorney. His firsthand knowledge allows him not only to deeply analyze the murder case but also to expose the legal mischief spawned when a defendant facing unshakable physical evidence possesses almost unlimited funds.

LAWYER GAMES is not merely the story of an infamous murder case. It is the story of lawyer obfuscation, subterfuge and manipulation of the criminal trial process. These are common tools of a certain species of defense lawyer. LAWYER GAMES demonstrates the connection by drawing parallels with other high-profile criminal defendants, including O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector, Angelo Bruno (one of two Hillside Stranglers) and others.

True crime aficionados will be drawn to the two stories told in the book: The riveting story of the case, its evidence (including facts never heard in the courtroom), trials and results, and the incredible eight-year campaign to beat a murder rap no matter what, with a look behind the curtain at a darker side of the American criminal justice system.

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In the end, this book is not about a single, though fascinating, criminal case. This book is about the underbelly of the criminal legal system. It’s not a pretty sight.

We will cover witnesses, evidence, and tactics from all four trials, but with a focus on the larger war. Why was a question asked in a particular way? How was a witness’s answer crafted to convey an impression rather than a fact? When is a lawyer “testifying” through a question rather than asking one? We will go beyond the game on the playing field, to the game within the game. I expect that you will never look at a criminal trial quite the same way again. In my opinion, that’s a good thing.

Seldom is a murder case tried four times. Only occasionally does a murder case involve a defendant with virtually unlimited financial resources. These forces came together in this case, presenting a rare opportunity to observe the criminal system operating at its best and at its worst. The great advantage of seeing multiple trials on the same facts is the ability to see changes in strategy, approach, and, unfortunately, even testimony when there are plentiful Benjamins to fund the battle and very little in the way of ethics to restrain the combatants.

Thus, there are two stories within the following pages. One is the story of the case: the facts, the evidence, the trials, and the result. The other is a deeper story that is, in many respects, more disturbing: the story of an eight-year campaign of a defendant and his lawyers to beat a murder rap—no matter what it took—and what that campaign says about the criminal justice system and those who ply their trade therein.

There are some aspects of the criminal law that I do not miss. It can be a dirty business, when the lust for the win overwhelms all else. Prepare yourself to know as much about one unique murder case as anyone currently living, and more about the dark side of criminal law than you might want to know.

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