Courthouse shakedown by a bully

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EVERYWHERE WE TURN these days we read reports of bullying.  Most often these stories stem from a school setting where the practice has reached epidemic proportions and often fueled a violent eruption from a kid on the receiving end.

But bullying isn’t confined to our schools.

On Fridays, as we consider powerful themes in fiction related to the justice system, we do well to give some thought to an equally destructive form of bully, the bully cloaked with the power of the state, a corrupt prosecutor who seeks his own agenda.

People fail to realize that perhaps the greatest weapon a prosecutor possesses is his ability to decide which cases to prosecute.  He can turn a blind eye to a true villain and bring the full force of the state down on a petty crook.

One of the most common tactics used in “official” bullying is the shake down. This is a circumstance where the DA charges a person with a  major felony, when the facts either don’t support a criminal charge at all, or support only a minor charge.

The purpose of the shake down is to make the defendant cave, i.e., to agree to plead guilty to some charge in order to escape the possibility of conviction on the major offense.  Not many people, even innocent ones, are willing to roll the dice in a court of law when their freedom or their lives are at stake.

This type of bullying reaches its zenith when the DA goes after an innocent person. This scenario is a criminal defense attorney’s worst nightmare.

In LAST ONE CHOSEN, I wrote about a couple of country lawyers who found themselves thrust into the defense of an innocent man charged with a capital offense. Throughout the book, the attorneys had the overriding sense that they were all that stood between their client and the death penalty.

The stakes don’t get any higher than that.

If the bully wins an innocent person dies.

That sort of conflict where every courtroom encounter takes place in the shadow of the gallows propels a story, building suspense on the way to the final showdown.

So, in your legal thriller think about transferring the bully from the school house to the courthouse.

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