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John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster Hardcover – August 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


How do you defend a madman accused of killing 30 young men and teenagers? That is the powerful theme of this book by a retired judge and criminal attorney whose first case was defending John Wayne Gacy. . . . What emerges is a deep probing into Gacy's mind as it unraveled into a "detached, disconnected" madness wrapped in a maze of sexual confusion and murderous intent. . . . Despite Amirante's hearty defense, Gacy got a death sentence (he was executed in 1994) and his account will illuminate the case for anyone fascinated by the inner workings of a serial killer. 50 b&w illus. -- --Publishers Weekly

"This book, sassy, surreal, and surprisingly personal, is mostly about Gacy's trial and Amirante's observations of his `pathetic and sad' first client. . . .True crime aficionados will want to make a special place on their bookshelves for this unique-slant look at one of America's most notorious killers." --

About the Author

Sam L. Amirante is a retired judge and lawyer. His first case after leaving the Office of the Public Defender was The People of the State of Illinois v. John Wayne Gacy. In 1988, he was appointed to the bench as an Associate Judge of The Circuit Court of Cook County where he served until his retirement in 2005. He is now the principal attorney of the firm of Sam L. Amirante and Associates, P.C. Amirante authored procedures adopted by the Illinois General Assembly such as the Missing Child Act of 1984 (I-SEARCH), which is credited with helping to locate more than 3,000 missing children. Sam lives with his wife and children in Barrington, Illinois.

Danny Broderick founded the firm of The Law Offices of Daniel J. Broderick. During his twenty years of private practice, Mr. Broderick represented thousands of persons charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes. Danny has two sons and lives in Lake Zurich, Illinois.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616082488
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616082482
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,162,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By RA Meeks on October 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first book I've read on JWG, so I have nothing to compare it with. John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster

My initial hope was that the man who defended Gacy would have insights into the case that I hadn't read about or seen before. What we get, in large measure, is a thorough defense of our judiciary system (even the worst of us is entitled to a defense in court) to recollections of a young lawyer's first case throwing him into the national spotlight. His first case was to defend one of the most savage and remorseless killers of our generation. We learn about the fraternity of lawyers and the back-slapping and glad-handing that makes up the landscape of our legal system.

The best part of this book is the closing arguments which, to their credit, Mr. Amirante and Mr. Broderick, give us practically in toto. The basic questions of JWG's guilt or innocence rests on whether he really knew what he was doing. Both the defense and prosecution give us closing statements addressing those very issues in a thorough and detailed way.

Curiously, most of the pictures in the book are of the crime scene, with a very blurry picture added at the end of the book of the victims. Putting these pics of the victims at the end almost has a last-minute feel to it.

This is really less a profile of Gacy, although some of the documents provided in the book are interesting, and less an overview of the case, than it is about defending the indefensible. If that's your interest, you'll probably enjoy this perspective. Mr. Amirante does not seem to have provided us with any of his inner musings about the case, the kinds of things that would probably keep me up at night.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mary on July 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In so much that this book is a tale of John Wayne Gacy, one of the most notorious serial killers of our time,it is also the story of a young lawyer's quest to uphold and defend the principles of the Constitution of the United States. How fortunate are we to live in a country that even "monsters" such as Gacy are entitled to a dedicated defense as provided by this "young gun"? You gotta love that...and be proud. Did Sam Amirante think Gacy was innocent? Of corse not! But he did believe he was entitled to the best defense he could provide so that even his "rights" could be protected. Amirante and his co-council Bob Motta put their lives on hold for almost a year and a half to immerse themselves in this feat. This is Sam's story. The author Danny Broderick does an excellent job in giving the reader an insight into how Sam Amirante maneuvered this minefield that was the Gacy case. The book takes you on a journey from that first phone call to Sam to the final sentencing of Gacy. A fascinating read. Danny Broderick has you riding "shotgun" on Amirante's incredible ride.
Great Job!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Erin James on February 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book--I wish I hadn't read it. Having said that, it's not because it's not good--it's quite wonderful, really. But the subject material--ugh. Gacy was a full plate of cray-cray. Amirante comes off as being a sympathetic character--or as sympathetic as a defense attorney can ever be--and a fine writer to boot. TIP: at the end it gets into the courtroom BS, and Amirante takes great pains to document every detail of his closing speech--skip that part. But don't skip the prosecutor's. No way. I've written my fair share of scripts in my time (some of them successful, thank you for wondering), and if I were writing the script for this book, I would keep every word of the prosecutor's closing statement. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Warning: you will not sleep well for many nights after you read this. The Robert Piest story alone--which Amirante opens with--will make you want to lock your children up in a room until they were 21, and then only let them go after they have GPS trackers. Heartbreaking. Utterly heartbreaking.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Schuh on August 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I write crime fiction but I love reading True Crime. Amirante and Broderick's John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster is right up there with Anne Rule's books--in my opinion. Amirante was Gacy's lawyer and tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to mount an insanity defence for his client. While most of us know the story of Gacy's horrendous murdering spree, this book provides more than enough behind-the-scenes information to hold a reader's interest.

While remaining very respectful of both his client and Gacy's victims, Amirante and Broderick masterfully spice the drama with low-key humour--aimed mostly at the lawyer's novice self at the time, and the bizarre circumstances surrounding the case and the trial.

The writing is powerful, clean, and well-paced. It avoids the technical and detailed explanations that often bog down a true crime story and gets right to the interesting part--the people behind the story.

Amirante/Broderick do not avoid casting the villain into the limelight--readers with an avid interest in the criminal mind will come away satisfied that they now know much more about the mind and soul of John Wayne Gacy and the people whose lives he so dramatically touched.
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