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Cost of Arrogance: A Jake Clearwater Legal Thriller Reviewed by Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Monday, September 27, 2021


Author:H. Mitchell Caldwell

Publisher:Nine Innings Press


Pepperdine/Caruso lawprofessor H. Mitchell Caldwell has written a chilling legal thrilleraround the retrial of a convicted murderer facing the death penalty.

As the novel opens,Caldwell introduces us to Professor Jake Clearwater, who had joinedthe law faculty at Pacifico Law School four years ago. Beforebecoming a member of the staff, Clearwater was a trial prosecutor inSan Arcadia, California. 

What prodded Clearwater tochange employment was his displeasure with his arrogant boss, JohnTice, the San Arcadia DA.

Although Clearwaterenjoyed teaching, it eventually became routine. There wasn’t thesame intensity as being a trial attorney, and Clearwater was becomingrestless. 

His opportunity to returnto courtroom drama occurred when a few representatives of the DeathPenalty Project knocked on his door one afternoon. They represented adeath-row prisoner in appealing his conviction and death sentence.They wanted to convince Clearwater to take on the case. 

Clearwater didn’t expectthe appellate work would fill the adrenaline gaps he was lacking.Although, it would offer an intellectual and emotional challengemissing from academia. After reflecting on and acknowledging that helacked experience, he still agreed to accept the case. 

To help him prepare forthe appeal, Clearwater enlisted one of his brightest students,Suzelle Frost. Their combined preparatory work would involveexamining 6,652 pages of testimony, 3,306 pages of clerk’stranscripts, as well as boxes of police reports, various witnessaccounts, various materials, and newspaper accounts of the trial.Quite a colossal task! 

The prisoner whomClearwater was urged to represent was Duane Durgeon. He had been ondeath row in San Quentin for several years, as he was convicted ofmurdering Robert, and Doree Blanco. The factswere appalling. 

Durgeon, along with histwo companions, Dan Atwell and Todd Rode, had forced their way intothe Blanco home one evening. According to Clearwater, Durgeon’sattorney poorly represented him in his trial, and he exploited thisas his justification for requesting a retrial. The judge concurred,and Clearwater was fortunate to have his client retried. The retrialwould pit Clearwater against Attorney General Tice, whom he respectedfor his legal skills, but detested him as an individual.

Before Durgeon’s trialwas afoot, a distraction occurred when Frost’s dad was arrested forstriking a law enforcement officer. Apparently, there had been somemisunderstanding, and her father’s attorney wanted him to pleadguilty. Clearwater was able to successfully come to Frost’sfather’s rescue.

During the trial,Clearwater was attracted to one member of the jury. It didn’t takelong after the trial concluded that he was in a romantic liaison withthe gorgeous jury participant.

The new trial pittedAttorney General Tice against Clearwater. Tice’s evidence was basedon nine incriminating circumstances that would establish that Durgeonwas responsible for murdering Robert and Doree Blanco. 

These included Durgeon’sprevious visit to the Blanco apartment, damaging remarks to hislive-in girlfriend, Christina Atwell, who was the mother of DanAtwell, the gun that was discovered by Christina, bullets recoveredfrom Doree that were consistent with bullets fired from the weapon,absence from the home, a fingerprint attributed to Durgeon,eyewitness identification, Durgeon’s history of violence and hisown testimony. In his defense, Clearwater brilliantly refutes each ofthese components and underscores to jury members that they must findDurgeon guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Caldwell teaches criminalprocedure and trial advocacy. He frequently represents death rowinmates appealing their convictions before the California SupremeCourt.

Cost of Arrogance: AJake Clearwater Legal Thriller is a wholly engaging read,providing readers with the gratification that emanates from goodwriting. Caldwell’s sharp eye for detail makes the narrative evenmore interesting in capturing the mood and tone of a courtroom dramawhere a man’s life is at stake. He does an exceptional job ofbuilding tension, pitting two exceptionally competent attorneysagainst each other. The resolution of the tale is left to the novel’sfinal chapters. 

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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