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BLACK'S LAW: A Criminal Lawyer Reveals His Defense Strategies in Four Cliffhanger Cases Paperback – April 6, 2000


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BLACK'S LAW: A Criminal Lawyer Reveals His Defense Strategies in Four Cliffhanger Cases + Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail--Every Place, Every Time + The Art of Cross-Examination
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684863065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684863061
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The title of criminal defense lawyer Roy Black's first book alludes to the renowned legal dictionary, and the reference is appropriate: Black is beyond a reasonable doubt the definitive defense attorney. Considered among the best advocates for the accused in the United States, he has had clients that included William Kennedy Smith and Marv Albert. But in Black's Law, the former public defender and law professor recounts the strategies and tactics he employed to safeguard the freedom of four lesser-known clients: Luis Alvarez, Thomas Knight, Steve Hicks, and Fred De La Mata.

In "Alvarez" (Black refers to each of his four examples by case name), a Miami cop is put on trial for shooting an African American suspect with no previous criminal record, pitting Black against the office of Dade County state attorney Janet Reno, who desperately needed a conviction to avert widespread race riots. In "Knight," Black must convince a federal appeals court that an insane multiple killer was condemned to death row by the bad lawyering of his first four attorneys. In "Hicks," a young bartender finds himself charged with murder after his girlfriend dies of an accidental gunshot wound; Black defends him against incriminating circumstantial evidence and the cluster-bungling efforts of police investigators. And in "De La Mata," Black takes a break from the murder trials to work on a money-laundering case.

The aforementioned Black's Law Dictionary defines a defense attorney as "a [l]awyer who files appearance in behalf of defendant and represents such in civil or criminal case," but Roy Black's account underscores how such technical definitions fail to convey the essential role defense attorneys play in our adversarial system of justice. Black's Law is not just about four individual defendants, it's about the rights to which all defendants are entitled--and for which people like Roy Black fight--in a court of law. --Tim Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Best known for representing headline-grabbers such as Marv Albert and William Kennedy Smith, defense attorney Black has spent 28 "raw, bizarre" years in the criminal courts. Here he recounts his successful defense strategies in four apparently hopeless cases, only one of which made the national news: the 1982 murder trial of Luis Alvarez, a young police officer whose shooting of a black teenager set off three days of rioting in Miami. Black shows how he selected, and then seduced, the Alvarez jury, how he designed his client's appearance ("single-breasted suits, in muted hues, with non-designer ties") and how he showed up the prosecution's big-bucks case with low-tech tactics ("Never underestimate the power of a piece of chalk"). But for Black the most lethal weapon is cross-examination, the fascinating transcripts of which he quotes at length. Black tends to downplay his own rare mistakes even as he exudes contempt for prosecutorial, and sometimes judicial, incompetence. He's very good, and he knows it. On the other hand, he justifies his law-is-hell cockiness with convincing reminders of the high stakes involved: in the case of Thomas Knight, for example, all that saved the insane, indigent murderer from Florida's electric chair was Black's deft exposure of the previous attorneys' gross ineptitude. Practitioners may find many of Black's revelations unsurprising, but no one will dispute Black's in-court performance, which this book powerfully captures. BOMC alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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His writing style is smooth and flowing and each of the cases was so interesting I found it hard to put the book down.
Julie Swynnerton
If you are looking for a feel of the important stakes in cases and the adversarial relationship between prosecution and defense, you'll find it here.
John McCarthy
I would hope Mr. Black will write more, he is able to take a very complicated subject and break it down to a laymans understanding.
David A. Spearman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
His skills honed in the seedy and often dangerous world of the defense of indigent clients on the wrong side of Miami, Roy Black has selected four cases from his portfolio to present to the reader in summary form. We soon see that Mr. Black is one-in-10,000 in the pursuit of his profession at the bar. We see that not only must an advocate know the law consummately, but be so facile in the world of criminal and civil procedures both in state courts and in federal, so as to anticipate and outwit both the prosecutor and the judge in the dogged defense of his client. Black's success rests in no small measure upon his consummate knowledge of human nature; he studies his clients his opponents,the witnesses, the judges and the jurypersons until he can be fairly certain of how they will respond to circumstances. He is as indefatigable in his memorization the documents of hostile witnesses as he is with case law. Each case he has chosen illustrates a different facet in the all too familiar tale of justice aborted. In the middle of racial unrest that tore Miami apart in the early 80's a police officer named Alvarez shot a black man in a crowded arcade. There were immediate riots as the populace reacted to what they saw as yet another case of police brutality. There was enormous pressure to charge Alvarez with a crime so as to avert further rioting, and state attorney general Reno called for Alvarez's head. By making sure of his jury and by calling in several experts Black demonstrated that the officer acted in self defense. He was acquitted despite the politics. The next case involves an indigent black man who undeniably had murdered innocent victims. He had been condemned to die.Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Raymond D. Houlihan on July 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who is interested in the way criminal trials really work -- not the Ally McBeal version, or the O.J. "Dream Team" version -- this is a great book. As a public defender I can tell you that Mr. Black's book is the real deal -- although he practices at a level that most of us can only aspire to. Mr. Black, like most great trial lawyers, is an excellent story-teller. The prose is simple, direct and entertaining. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John McCarthy on August 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of court stories from novelists as William Bernhardt and Sheldon Siegel, among others. So trying a non-fiction book was a risk because of the potential dense prose of court documents and legal procedures. No problems here. Black's Law is well written for any layman to understand. 4 case studies are included. Black tells each with an ongoing stream of his reflections about the process and proceedings. If you are looking for a feel of the important stakes in cases and the adversarial relationship between prosecution and defense, you'll find it here. Each story builds an increasing sense of chill about the rights, or lack of, for the defendant in a system that seems to favor the prosecution--unless you have a good lawyer who works hard on research and cross-examinations.

Read the book. You will not be disappointed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Walter Benenati on September 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Roy Black once said, "The kind of cases I handle are the ones people can't afford to lose." On the eve of yet another notorious public figure facing penitentiary chances, Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis made the call, "Get me Roy Black." And why not? Mr. Black has attained legendary status as one of the top legal minds in the country. From his days battling in the PD's office in Miami to his rise as Miami's `super lawyer' , Black's deft handling of the media makes for a formidable one-two punch when you combine his PR skills with his presence in the courtroom. Francis knows he's in for the fight of his life. The government has tattooed crosshairs on his back for the last ten years, and he knows he's facing the end of his rope. Who wouldn't hire Black?

This book encapsulates all that is Roy Black. Delivering gut-wrenching stories of trench warfare, he said, "My cases are World War III to me. I don't take prisoners when I go to trial." Attorneys make their living through words. And this book is a testament to that. Written for the everyday man, the style of writing is brief, easy to read, and compelling. It's as if Black is masterfully telling his stories to a jury. And once again, he wins them over. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Okabayashi on January 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed "Black's Law." He tells four different seemingly story-like narratives about four different cases. He discusses in detail every aspect of trying a case from research to voire dire. If you are interested in either legal strategy or just in a good story, you should read this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Casey on September 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
I found this non-fiction book to be as captivating a read - and frankly, much better written - than many of the fictional legal thrillers and courtroom dramas filling the bookstore shelves these days. Add to that the fact that this book offers great insight into our criminal justice system and the import role of the criminal defense attorney in it, and you have a book that is, in my opinion, a must-read.
All that being said, I think that perhaps what impressed me most about this book is what is not in it - celebrity name dropping. Black is clearly set apart from some of his colleagues in the high profile defense lawyer set by his choices of cases to include in this book. Having represented a number of "household names" in cases which received considerable media attention, Black writes in his book about none of them, choosing instead cases in which he represented people outside of the public eye and who came from a variety of walks of life. He should be commended for this and his book is rendered all the more impactful by the lack of the "tabloid" element.
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