GOOD Books: Sensational Court Cases
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Dr. Conrad Murray is on trial for manslaughter in connection with the death of larger-than-life star Michael Jackson, and much of the nation is watching. Murray's case is part of a long line of courtroom media spectacles. These books detail the twisting court proceedings of famous people and crimes, from the sensational trial of O.J. Simpson to the horrifying testimony of Charles Manson to the lesser-known battle over Oscar Wilde's homosexuality. Get the facts and decide once and for all who's guilty and who's not.
Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case
by Diane Dimond
352 pages. Atria Books. $22.95.
The King of Pop often was the King of Controversy, battling two sets of child molestation accusations in his lifetime. Jackson's habit of hosting sleepovers for young boys at his Neverland Ranch home ignited a media firestorm that changed his public image forever. Dimond was one of the first journalists to break the story of abuse allegations in 1993, when police raided Jackson's home. The book chronicles the accusation from 13-year-old Jordan Chandler, and Jackson's claims of innocence. The case was settled out of court for $22 million. In 2005, Jackson was charged with seven counts of molestation and two counts of administering a toxic agent to young boys, spurred by a documentary in which Jackson described bizarre sleeping situations with children. He was eventually acquitted of all charges, but not before the court laid bare his personal life. Whether you're a diehard fan or believe Jackson was a pedophile, this book lays out the facts of a Hollywood puzzle.
In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote
343 pages. Random House. $23.00.
Capote spent six years working on his thrilling crime masterpiece before publishing it in 1966. He traveled to Holcomb, Kansas after learning of the brutal murders of a couple and their two children, who had been bound, gagged, and died of a close-range shotgun blast. He interviewed dozens of people involved in the incident, including the killers, parolees Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. The men entered the home hoping to rob the family, but upon finding no money, went on a mindless killing spree. Both men, notoriously unapologetic for their crimes, were eventually executed by hanging. Hailed as one of the first nonfiction novels, this page-turner will remind you to keep your doors locked at night.
The Run of His Life
by Jeffrey Toobin
496 pages. Touchstone Books. $45.95.
The O.J. Simpson murder trial was a giant media sensation that captured the nation's attention for months. Toobin's detailed account of the trial sheds light on the many twists and turns of the case, including the grandiose mistakes of the prosecutors (remember when they had Simpson try on the glove?) or the racially charged themes that may have affected the overall outcome of the case (Toobin quotes one black juror as saying, just after the verdict was delivered, "We've got to protect our own."). The book is a crash course through the justice system, the life-and-death decisions lawyers make in trial every day, and the sometimes frightening power of the media.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders
by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
689 pages. W. W. Norton & Company. $14.95.
Charles Manson and his cult of killers terrorized the Los Angeles area in 1969, randomly murdering several people, including the pregnant Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski. Manson didn't kill anyone with with his own hands, but used the subversive mind control of a psychopath, ordering his followers to go to various homes and destroy anyone inside. They left behind victims with dozens of stab wounds and phrases like "death to pigs" written on the walls in blood. Helter Skelter, written in part by the prosecuting attorney in the case against Manson, is a rare glimpse into the private thoughts of a lawyer facing by a monster. Manson remains in prison today.
The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
by Merlin Holland
384 pages. Harper Perennial. $16.99.
Near the turn of the 20th century, Oscar Wilde was one of the first fighting to "legalize gay." The witty author and playwright of classics like The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest was sentenced to two years of hard labor for "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons" in Victorian England. The book contains transcripts from the first of three trials Wilde went through for homosexuality. The same humor that made his career most likely sealed his fate: when questioned on the witness stand if he had kissed a particular man, Wilde replied, "Oh no, never in my life. He was a peculiarly plain boy." The book shows the injustice and prejudice of a religious courtroom and the tenacity of a man ahead of his time.