Irving Morris s vivid recollection of events that occurred many decades ago demonstrates how the intangible benefits that lawyers receive from unpaid devotion to their profession generally far exceed the value of fees received from paying clients. I have often quoted the advice that John Adams gave to a younger lawyer: Now, to what higher object, to what greater character, can any mortal aspire than to be possessed of all this knowledge well digested, and ready at command to assist the feeble and friendless...? Morris s story exemplifies this lesson. As he writes toward the end of the book, Even though my clients paid little, I know I have earned far beyond what I ever imagined I might receive from successfully representing them.
Rather than provide readers with an advocate s recitation of the facts designed to persuade them that all three defendants were innocent, the first several chapters of Morris s book which describe the incident itself, the preliminary hearing, and the six-day trial serve a more limited objective. They make clear that the jury was confronted with difficult questions of credibility: whether to believe the defendants or the alleged victim s account of what happened in the park as to whether the encounter was consensual. The conflict was not only between the testimony of participants in the event, but also that of three police officers. We know now that those officers unquestionably committed perjury. They testified falsely that each of the defendants had signed only one statement, rather than two. If the jury accepted the perjured police testimony as true, it necessarily would have concluded that the defendants were lying when they testified to the contrary. The conclusion that the defendants lied about a matter debated at length throughout the trial undoubtedly affected the jurors resolution of the conflicting testimony about the incident itself.
In Morris s account of the events that occurred after he took over the case, he tells us about his series of defeats in state court proceedings. Initially, he unsuccessfully sought access to evidence that would establish the perjury by the police officers. After that perjury came to light as a result of an internal police department investigation, Morris experienced repeated defeats in his attempts to persuade state judges to grant a new trial.
Morris convincingly explains how state judges decided the disputed factual issues about the encounter between the defendants and the alleged victim, rather than the relevant question: whether the perjury had deprived the defendants of their right to have an impartial jury make that decision. Implicit in Morris s book is the recognition of the risk that judges confronted with post-conviction claims may be biased in favor of upholding both the work of their colleagues and the continued confinement of convicted defendants in a highly publicized case.
Irving Morris should be given credit for his contribution to the Supreme Court s clear establishment of a rule of law that would provide relief today for my hypothetical petitioner if there were a new rape case with the exact same facts and procedural history. This is only one of the many reasons why Morris s memoir is well worth reading. --Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, New York Review of Books
One creative lawyer's perseverance against a system that failed miserably in its duty to do justice is particularly vital today when courts and legislatures seem more and more inclined to support finality rather than fairness, and toughness more than truth. Thus, the book teachers lessons for today's lawyers and citizens. And does so with graphic details and thoughtful analysis, coupled with charm and humor. --Frederick A. O. Schwartz, Jr., Chief Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law
In the early 1950s, there was no Gideon, no Brady, and no Miranda. There was no DNA analysis. And there was no National Associational of Criminal Defense Lawyers, But there was a Constitution. And for one young, tenacious Delaware attorney, Irving Morris, the due process guarantees provided under that constitution would come to life and vindicate his clients for one very important reason, because he did not accept defeat. Against all odds, he kept fighting year after year, in court after court, until justice was done. Nearly 60 years ago, shortly after he graduated from Yale Law School and was admitted to practice law in Delaware, Morris embarked upon a seven-year struggle to right a wrong in one of Delaware's highest profile criminal cases of the 20th century.
The Rape Case takes the reader well beyond the findings one can read in the numerous state and federal court opinions resulting from Morris's post-conviction challenges. It is a powerful, first person account of a young attorney who would translate core constitutional principles he studied at Yale Law School into the practical outcome for which so much of the Bill of Rights is designed: the fundamental constitutional right to a fair trial. In this case, the defendants had been deprived of that right. And while the young men spent nearly 11 years imprisoned, Morris's ultimate habeas victory in federal court vindicated that right and freed Curran, Maguire, and Jones.
The Rape Case is as much a testament to the reason so many choose a career in the law as it is a detailed account of an injustice at the hands of law enforcement. Masterfully weaving together the legal, political and public landscape, Morris takes the reader back to a different era and reveals how justice can be achieved even in a criminal justice system lacking many of the legal safeguards introduced in the last few generations. --Ivan J. Dominguez, The Champion