In January 1979, John Singer, a hard-working, self-reliant Utah farmer, was shot and killed by a state law enforcement officer during an arrest attempt. His death came after six years of conflict with the Utah courts over his insistence on educating his children at home in accordance with his fundamentalist Mormon beliefs. John Singer clearly broke the state law, but was the principle he fought for worth dying for?
Death Of An American is a powerful example of investigative journalism at its most provocative. With relentless energy, it probes the workings of law enforcement and our system of justice, and studies the mind and heart of John Singer as it seeks an understanding of why this stubborn, independent man seemed destined to die for his beliefs.
After his death, Singer's wife Vickie filed a $110 million lawsuit, through famed lawyer Gerry Spence, against Utah officials, including the Governor. Spence called the suit a "landmark test of parents' rights," and claimed that the defendants had deprived the Singers of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion, and had harassed Singer literally into his grave.
Three years later in 1982, a Utah judge in a pre-trial opinion stunned many of the onlookers by throwing the case out of court, claiming that the evidence was insufficient, and that, in effect, it was John Singer's own rebellion that led to his death.
But the mystery of John Singer-and the meaning of his death-is far from over. The case, on appeal, continues, and John Singer remains a paradox.
Death Of An American, sure to generate the same controversy as The Executioner's Song and Mrs. Harris, is a chilling true story more powerful than fiction, one that takes the reader through important constitutional and educational issues, and, most of all, deep into one man's tragic fight for personal and religious freedom.