The Homicide Chronicle
Defending the Citizen Accusedby Ralph Shamas
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The Masquerade Crew
The naked body of a young single mother is found in the bedroom of her own home. She's been sexually assaulted and stabbed 36 times. There is blood splatter, candle wax, a mysterious drinking glass, and other compelling evidence found at the scene.
Bill Castro, a working man, a thoughtful and loving husband, the father of a young child, is charged with the horrifying crime. Lawyer Bruce Sanah is retained to represent Bill Castro and finds himself having to confront disturbing evidence and unsettling surprise. Is Bill Castro innocent or is he a brutal murderer?
The Homicide Chronicle, written by a man who has years of experience in the courtroom, delivers a true insider's look into a fascinating murder investigation and jury trial. Ultimately, the absorbing conclusion will confirm that the pursuit of truth and justice is often complicated and unpredictable.
I am a lawyer. For more than 35 years, my job has been to defend people accused of committing all manner of wrongful acts. I love what I do, and I never look back on my decision to become a lawyer. In fact, that decision was made when I was a middle-school student, just 13 years old, as I listened to a local lawyer who had come to speak to our civics class. He was passionate in expressing the irreplaceable value of good lawyers in our free society and was forceful in demonstrating with his charismatic presence that a lawyer can command a huge image in the eyes of others. Duly impressed, and convinced that I wanted to be just such a man, I went home that day to announce my intentions. I did so at the dinner table that evening. My parents, both occupied with their daily stresses, nodded slightly, implying only some tacit approval. Still, I was absolutely determined, and in actual fact, I never changed my mind.
Even before I entered law school I discovered that all lawyers sadly must acknowledge that not everyone sees the profession as honorable. Then, beginning in the early years of my law practice, I started hearing the question, usually asked by some new acquaintance at a social function: “How can you represent a guilty man?” I still get that question on occasion and suppose I will always will. People are programmed, it seems, to bring that question to mind when the topic of lawyers is brought up. Admit it, you are probably asking that same question right now. Well enough. My response, for now, is simply this: You surely will have at least some understanding of what I believe to be the most compelling and appropriate answer once you have finished reading this book.
Over the course of my legal career, I have represented hundreds of clients, had hundreds of trials, and became familiar with scores of other cases. One murder case stands out as the most intriguing and enigmatic of them all. This book focuses on and fictionalizes that single case: the case of a sexual murder, the despicable acts of a twisted mind. With this said, you may be ready to assume that I was the defense lawyer. I will not confirm that for you. In fact, the main fictional character in this book is named R. Bruce Sanah, and with him as your companion, you will pass through and experience the course of a trial like no other you have ever heard or read about. Who committed the awful, heinous crime? Well, all I will tell you now is that it is just not that easy to say. Did Lawyer Sanah represent a guilty man? You be the judge, if you can.
The events have been set, for purposes of this story, in Douglas, Arizona, a border town separated by a tall barbed-wire fence from Agua Prieta, Mexico. The Douglas population has been approximately 15,000 to 20,000, give or take a few thousand, for decades. It is the county seat of Cochise County and a much-overlooked port of entry with Mexico. You will read that Bruce Sanah was born there and grew up attending the Douglas public schools. He loved the people in Douglas; it was his home. And just as I personally persisted in my desire to become a practicing lawyer, Bruce Sanah never wavered from his intent to study law and to return to Douglas following his law school graduation.
This extraordinary murder trial took place in 1983, at a time when Bruce Sanah was a relatively young lawyer. It was an age that preceded modern-day computers and smartphones. Consequently, you should refrain from asking yourself why he did not, at critical moments, go online for an answer or for relevant background information. Lawyers did what they could with what was available at the time. There were no laptops in the courtroom, only copious handwritten notes made with pens on legal pads.
The case this book focuses upon and fictionalizes was in many ways on my mind (or at least at the back of my mind) for a good many years. Justifiably, you may wonder why I waited so long to write the story. Well, there is no truly good answer I can give you, except to say that after you have finished this book, you may better understand my feeling that some things are just so compelling that words do not come easily to describe them. However, aside from the fact that it was decades before I sat down to write the tale you are going to read, it simply had to be told and it had to be told by someone like me—a lawyer who has been there, in court with a client accused of murder.
One final thing: Please keep in mind that names and places have been changed, and many of the facts have been fictionalized. If a name or situation I have used is the same or resembles another name or situation, or is the same or resembles someone else’s name or circumstance, that is simply coincidence. That being said, I assure you that there was a “Castro” murder trial, and you are about to become a part of an unforgettable few months through the eyes of my fictional character, Bruce Sanah.
So, let us begin.
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