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Acquittal: An Insider Reveals the Stories and Strategies Behind Today's Most Infamous Verdi cts [Kindle Edition]

Richard Gabriel

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Book Description

October 3, 1995. The shocking outcome of the O.J. Simpson trial leaves a nation divided. July 5, 2011. Casey Anthony walks free despite being convicted by millions on cable news and social media.

There are times when something as supposedly simple as a just verdict rises to the level of cultural touchstone. Often these moments hinge on logic that seems flawed and inexplicable—until now. In Acquittal, leading trial consultant Richard Gabriel explains how some of the most controversial verdicts in recent times came to be.

Drawing on more than twenty-eight years of experience, Gabriel provides firsthand accounts of his work on high-profile cases, from the tabloid trials of Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector, and Heidi Fleiss to the political firestorms involving Enron and Whitewater. An expert on court psychology and communications, Gabriel offers unique insights on defendants, prosecutors, judges, witnesses, journalists, and the most important people in the room: the jury.

Through play-by-play breakdowns of the proceedings, Gabriel reveals the differences between a court of law and the court of public opinion, the convoluted mechanics behind jury selection, strategies for creating a careful balance of evidence and doubt, and the difficulties of providing a fair trial in the digital age. Along the way, Gabriel raises hard questions about not only the legal system but about the possibility of justice in an oversaturated media landscape.

The courtroom is a natural theater. The stakes are high. The roles are all too familiar. And there is always the chance of a twist ending. Acquittal is a revelatory guide to this riveting, frustrating, fascinating world—the most unpredictable drama in American life.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1619 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (3 Jun. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00K5WAU9O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #918,115 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review the book please 5 Jun. 2014
By Mark Cummings - Published on
The one star ratings are not book reviews, they are personal opinions on the criminal justice system. Do us a favor: tell us if the book is well written and captivating.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The real world of trial preparation 6 Sept. 2014
By Sue Boyd - Published on
The low ratings of this book aren't fair to Mr. Gabriel. Its a good book. Well written and very insightful. The pre-trial research is not surprising to anyone in the legal community. EVERYONE uses focus groups in civil litigation. Some criminal defendants can afford it, the same way they can afford the best defense attorney in town. Get over it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Part textbook, part memoir, part apologia 14 Sept. 2014
By bellczar - Published on
Acquittal by Richard Gabriel is part textbook, part memoir, and part apologia for the author's participation in some of the most controversial jury trials in recent American history. Gabriel is not a lawyer and his entry to the profession of jury consulting came after doing graduate study in communications. A red-diaper baby, Gabriel has heavily salted and peppered his book with a particular brand of social liberalism. Accordingly, Gabriel has done more work for criminal defendants than for the prosecution (although he worked for the U.S. attorney prosecuting Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, and this case is presented in the book.)

The book has a long (50 pp.) introductory chapter giving an overview of different conceptions of justice practiced in America; the role of the jury; and the function of jury consulting. This introductory chapter could serve as a course reading in a political science or criminal justice course.

The main message of the book is that it is more important who gets left off a jury than who is included, and most of the work of a jury consultant is identifying for the benefit of the parties and the lawyers which prospective jurors need most to be removed from the pool. Repeatedly, Gabriel says he was looking for jurors who were "smart, skeptical, and independent." A secondary message is that pre-trial public opinion polling, focus group work, and jury questionnaires should also inform the themes that lawyers use in arguing their cases. For example, the lawyers prosecuting O.J. Simpson decided that domestic abuse would be the main theme of their case, despite their own jury consultants telling them that this message did not resonate with the kind of juror that dominated the jury pool in the case. Meanwhile, the defense team ran with a theme of police misconduct in part because of the work of their own jury consultants, including Gabriel.

Gabriel conceives of four kinds of justice:
1. Capital J Justice, the theoretical, idealistic kind expounded in the Constitution and the Federalist Papers;
2. lowercase justice, the practical kind practiced by lawyers, judges, law enforcement, clerks, scriveners, and paralegals;
3. JUSTICE!, the theatrical kind developed not only in fiction like CSI, but for news programs like 48 Hours and cable news legal commentaries;
4. Justice occurring in the minds of trial jurors as they seek to render accurate verdicts.

Gabriel next devotes lengthy chapters to six prominent cases in which he had a role: the O.J. Simpson murder trial; the prostitution trial of Heidi Fleiss; the prosecution of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker stemming from the Whitewater matter in Arkansas; the prosecution of Rex Shelby and other principals of an Enron subsidiary pertaining to the collapse of that company; the Phil Spector murder trial; and the Casey Anthony capital murder trial.

It is in these chapters that Gabriel seems very defensive over his role in influencing the outcomes, if that is indeed what he did. Many previous books have rehashed the dueling jury consultants used in the Simpson case, and the consensus is that not only did Gabriel and his team do a better job of preparing Simpson's defense team for the trial than the prosecution jury consultants did, the defense lawyers also heeded the consultants' advice, while the prosecution team basically ignored the advice. This is illustrated with the example of successful and unsuccessful trial themes mentioned above. Also, research by the prosecution jury consultants found that jurors reacted especially negatively to lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, but Clark and her superiors ignored this.

Gabriel also argues that the very length of the Simpson trial worked against a conviction. The trial lasted over eight months from opening statements to closing arguments. The lead criminalist testified for nine days. Gabriel argues that this underscored the defense's argument that substantial errors were made in evidence collection, whereas keeping the testimony briefer would not have had this effect. Overwhelmingly, experts (including talking heads) who have commented on the Simpson verdict since it was decided opine that Simpson is guilty. Gabriel tellingly uses phrases like "Simpson's guilt" to indicate that he too is in this camp. In his final remark on the case, Gabriel eyebrow-raisingly invokes the names of four convicted and executed murderers in defending the verdict.

Gabriel downplays the seriousness of the charges against the largely-forgotten Fleiss (she headed an L.A. prostitution ring); maintains that Shelby and his co-defendants were innocent in the collapse of Enron; and argues that at the very least, reasonable doubt existed as the guilt of Phil Spector and Casey Anthony. (He claims to have consulted for Anthony for free in order to spare her from a death sentence.)

Despite the obscure level of most of what Gabriel writes about, the book flows smoothly and is relatively easy reading. Gabriel's favorite word seems to be emergent ("coming into existence"). The book seriously needed a fact-checker. Gabriel makes many sloppy errors, such as the dates key events happened. These call into question the accuracy of other statements in the book.

The book is a useful contribution to an understanding of the emergent field of jury consulting. However, as a reader and a political scientist, I would prefer to read and assign my students something written by someone with less of a stake in the process and the outcome of some of recent history's most controversial cases.
16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If one actually READS the book instead of just reacting to verdicts one does not like, 4 Jun. 2014
By RPM - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
it is a terrific read and a singular exploration of important ideas -- justice as aspiration, and justice as practiced by judges, by lawyers, by clients, by jurors, by citizens, and by media... 'cause each of those is different. These other reviews that criticize an author because they don't like the IDEA of what an author explores is like getting bent out of shape at a historian who writes about slavery; the topic might be unsettling or even repulsive, but when the truth is told with skill and insight, it is a great contribution to the conversation.

As for the other complaint that the poor reviewers seem to have -- that helping lawyers shape their cases for better results with layperson jurors is somehow "wrong" -- that is also getting mad at the wrong thing. Anyone who has ever thought that doctors could probably do a better job in how they talk (or don't) to us patients or had a sudden understanding about something a former teacher TRIED to get across years before but didn't get it across clearly back then, will see that anyone might be able to benefit from a translation from Subject Matter Expertese into Understandable Language As Spoken By Real People. And that maybe justice is actually, you know, HELPED by having jurors have a better understanding of what's going on as opposed to lofty, lawyerly, Latin-sprinkled speeches from windbag attorneys.

Bottom line: Richard's book is a great addition to the conversation... but is probably not going to be enjoyed by the more loyal of Nancy Grace's followers. So they should steer clear and read something else. But don't leave poor reviews of a book you OBVIOUSLY have not read because the news stories of the verdicts upset you.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the best book I've read all year 19 Jun. 2014
By KRS - Published on
Expertly written, interesting, and informative. Certainly not a book that will be popular with the "accusation = guilt" Nancy Grace crowd, but a fascinating look at the factors that play into the verdicts. The book not only provides insight into these specific cases, but into the benefits and limitations of the justice system as a whole. I thought I was fairly well versed in how the system works, but I learned quite a bit! Highly recommended.

Note: ignore the one star reviews. Yes, people have differences of opinions and if you hate the book, you hate the book, but not a one of them seems to have even *read* the book and instead are using the Amazon reviews as a platform to air their views on the justice system as a whole. As I'm writing this, exactly one one-star review is an amazon verified buyer and even that one chose to give his thoughts on the system as opposed to reviewing the book. A lot of folks seem to be assuming this book is a cheat sheet on how to game the system and that's not really accurate. For one thing, the prosecution also uses trial consultants. For another, this very author also consults for the prosecution. To assume that the use of a trial consultant is moral when the prosecution does it, but immoral when the defense does it is faulty logic. Secondly, he makes it very clear that the major goal of trial consulting for the defense is to ensure that the defendant gets a fair trial with a jury that will look objectively at the evidence. These are things you would know if you read the book.
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