When a promising actress from Spanish Harlem dies from a gunshot wound in a fashionable Tribeca hotel penthouse apartment of an eccentrically famous Broadway producer, it is up to New York DA Roger "Butch" Karp and his hard-charging, crime-fighting wife, Marlene Ciampi, to champion the murdered actress' cause. Karp, outraged by defense tactics to destroy the young woman's reputation--and then left with little choice after the mysterious death of the assistant DA originally assigned to the case--decides to personally prosecute the case and expose the "big lie" defense. With Marlene's assistance in locating and persuading a fearful witness to come forward, Karp is determined that money, threats, notoriety, and a high-powered defense attorney and his legion of experts will not prevail over justice.
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Robert K. Tanenbaum is one of the country's most respected and successful trial lawyers. Previously, he was the homicide bureau chief for the New York District Attorney's Office and deputy chief counsel to the congressional committee investigations into the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He has taught advanced criminal procedure at the University of California, Berkeley, and conducts continuing legal education seminars in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. He is a New York Times bestselling author. Some of his works include Outrage, Betrayed, Counterplay, Fury, Hoax, and two true-crime books, The Piano Teacher: The True Story of a Psychotic Killer and Badge of the Assassin.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A howl of female laughter reverberated down the hallway of the loft to where Butch Karp sat at the kitchen table trying to accomplish the gastronomical feat of eating breakfast and reading the Saturday New York Times without upsetting his stomach. He was losing the battle, too, as he labored through yet another editorial posing as a news story on the front page, under the headline:
JURY HANGS IN MAPLETHORPE MURDER TRIAL
More laughter interrupted his reading further. He looked up, his gold-flecked gray eyes narrowing as he wondered what it might be about. Zak and Giancarlo were already off to Central Park to play football with their friends, and his daughter, Lucy, was...Hmmm, who knows where Lucy is these days...just "away" according to her voice mail.
So something else was tickling his wife's fancy this morning. Another gale of mirth preceded Marlene Ciampi into the main area of the loft, which included a spacious living room, a kitchen, a library, and a foyer on an open floor plan. She followed close behind, holding up what appeared to be a letter.
"Look what I found going through those old papers," she chortled.
"Nude photographs from our wedding night?" Karp asked with a wink.
"Now that would be funny." Marlene smiled. "Especially because I was too drunk to remember it."
"All you need to know is that you said I was the best ever."
"Yeah, so you've told me. A regular Secretariat. But nah, this is real and it's hilarious." She laughed again and shook the letter at him.
Marlene had been fixing up the "den," which is what they were calling Lucy's former bedroom now that she'd more or less permanently relocated to New Mexico and parts unknown. His wife had decided that the space could be better used as a home office and that they didn't need to keep renting a storage unit in Newark for old papers and forgotten memorabilia. So a dozen boxes at a time, she was bringing the flotsam and jetsam of their lives to the loft and going through it "to get rid of anything we don't need."
When she started, Karp had made the mistake of saying he thought it might be a good idea so that someday they could "downsize" now that Lucy was gone and the boys were close to entering high school followed, presumably, by their leaving for college. But that had only earned him an icy stare from his wife, who had apparently not been thinking in terms of becoming an empty-nester in a few years. "We'll always need a big enough place they can come home to," she'd replied, as if instructing a not-so-bright pupil. "I'm even going to put a daybed in the 'office' so that Lucy will have a place to sleep. I'm not pushing our children out of their home, just cleaning house a bit and making some work space."
Having been dressed down for practically kicking their children to the streets, he'd been careful about what he said after that regarding her task and was happy to see her smiling now.
"So what's so funny about a piece of paper?" He stood up from his chair and walked over to his wife, who held it away from him. At six feet five, he towered over her so that she had to look up, her dark brown eyes twinkling and her cupid's-bow lips twisted into a smirk that said "The joke's on you, buddy boy."
That was okay with him as long as it made Marlene happy. She was looking good these days. Not that he ever thought she was unattractive. Since the day they met as young assistant district attorneys for New York County, he'd been drawn to her classic Italian features, the petite but curvy body, and the way her soft, molasses-colored curls framed her face. Not even when she lost an eye opening a letter bomb intended for him, way back when they were first dating, had he thought differently.
However, the past few years had been rough on her and the rest of the family. After leaving the DAO, Marlene tossed aside her lawyer's shingle and gave the private sector a shot as a gumshoe for hire. Fate, karma, circumstances -- whatever you wanted to call it -- had taken her down a road in which she found herself dispensing vigilante justice on behalf of abused women, and then again when her family was attacked -- a not uncommon experience. All of her behavior could be justified in an "eye for an eye" way, but she'd found herself caught up in a web of violence that she couldn't seem to extricate herself from. And it had taken its toll on her physically and emotionally, and on their marriage. As the district attorney for the County of New York and a man who believed in "the system," for all of its failings and imperfections, he opposed vigilante justice on principle. That his wife was in the middle of it had strained their relationship to the breaking point.
But they managed, he thought. He'd watched her making focaccia the other night, kneading the dough, lost in her own thoughts. She'd looked up and caught him gazing at her, then smiled and went back to her bread.
Lately, she just seemed...What's the word I'm looking for...satisfied?...Yes, she seems satisfied.
And yet, it had only been a few weeks since she had almost single-handedly stopped a terrorist attack on the New York Stock Exchange. If the terrorists had succeeded, the nation's economy could have collapsed, ruining lives and throwing the country into pandemonium. She'd killed several men to prevent it from happening, but it would have been hard to argue that every drop of blood wasn't justified. Still, there was the added trauma of nearly dying with her daughter...and the old bugaboo about people she loved getting caught up in the violence that hovered around her.
Of course, Karp worried that some new incident would push her back down the stairs of mental health. She'd get a taste of some act of violence and like an alcoholic who'd been on the wagon for many years and then tries "just a sip," she'd be hooked again. So he'd watched for some sign of distress -- a warning that the old addiction was kicking in again. But after she'd taken a few days to hang out with their friend John Jojola in the New Mexican desert, she'd seemed to bounce back to her new normal as devoted wife and mother.
Maybe it's been too easy, he thought, but then chided himself for doubting that she was coming to peace with who she was and her role in the world. Her present mischievousness seemed genuine enough. He smiled and held out his hand for the letter. "Come on, give it up, gorgeous."
"Hmph, well, if you're going to say nice things like that, you will spoil all my fun," she said, pretending to pout. "Anyway, I was going through a box with some of your old law school papers and found this...I guess you could call it a letter of recommendation, from Robert H. Cole."
"My torts professor?" At the mention of his old Boalt Hall law professor at UC Berkeley, Karp smiled. He recalled many a fine classroom debate with Cole; he'd realized only after the fact that the professor was using those debates to push his headstrong and occasionally overly emotional pupil to perfect his use of reason and logic in order to win the argument.
"Good old Bob Cole...what a mentor that guy was for me," Karp said. "He was a master at the art of logic and persuasion. I learned more about how to problem solve from him as anybody before or since, except maybe Garrahy."
"Well, the man certainly had you pegged." Marlene giggled. "The letter's addressed to Francis Garrahy."
Karp perked up. New York District Attorney Garrahy was already a legend by the time Karp arrived as a snot-nosed, wet-behind-theears assistant district attorney out to save the world by locking up all the bad guys. The old man had seen something in him, a raw, hardworking Jewish kid from Brooklyn who aspired to a career in the Homicide Bureau, and he'd taken him under his wing.
The DAO required applicants to have three letters of recommendation, so Karp had asked Cole for such a letter and was glad he'd kept a copy of it. "So if you're not going to let me read it, what's it say?"
"'Mr. Karp is an able and intelligent man," Marlene began lightly. "He is highly motivated toward law and public service, and well trained. He is competent and fully qualified for excellent service in any law office.'"
"That's what had you laughing like a lunatic? Have you been hitting the cooking sherry again?"
Marlene stuck her tongue out at him. "I'm getting to it if you'll allow me to continue. 'He has had a remarkable career of extracurricular activities, which testify to his energy, well-roundedness and complexity of interests, a principled devotion to public service, and his ability to do a great deal of work successfully. In college he was a star varsity basketball player...'"
Karp winced. His promising basketball career had ended with a blown-out knee that had required major reconstructive surgery and finished any thoughts he'd entertained of playing pro ball.
"'...and a major student leader on a campus of over 25,000 students.'"
"I still don't see what's so humorous. If you ask me, it's a rather dry recitation of these extraordinary facts as they pertained to me." Karp grinned with a raised eyebrow and an "I gotcha" wink.
Marlene rolled her eyes. "Yeah, Saint Butch. Anyway, what I was laughing about was what Cole wrote in the last paragraph. 'He is a forthright, strong-willed, outspoken man, and his combination of aggressiveness and determination has no doubt made him controversial at times and has occasionally annoyed people.'"
Karp's wife, his darling companion, his one and only, burst out laughing and had to wipe the tears from her eyes before she could speak again. "Boy, this guy Cole was a master at the understatement. 'Has occasionally annoyed people.' Oh, that's rich!"
"Yeah, well speaking of annoying...is that it?"
"No, he goes on, 'Moreover, his manner is not entirely suave.... ' He sure got you right, baby boy," Marlene chortled.
"Give me that," Karp growled, snatching the document from her hands. He read silently for a moment before smiling and reading aloud: "'Yet, I would consider these attributes as more desirable than not. They suggest a...
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