The Last Innocent Man

The Last Innocent Man by Phillip Margolin Read Free Book Online

Book: The Last Innocent Man by Phillip Margolin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Phillip Margolin
National Bank Tower, he was a name partner.
    “David, this is Leo Betts, a professor at the law school,” Gregory said, introducing a tall, hawk-nosed man with greasy, shoulder-length hair. Professor Betts was standing next to a mousy woman in her early thirties.
    “And Doris, his wife,” Gregory added. David shook hands with the professor.
    “Leo read your brief in the Ashmore case.”
    “An excellent job. I’m having my first-year criminallaw class read it as an example of first-class appellate argument.”
    “I’d look on it as a punishment assignment,” David said. “It was over a hundred pages.”
    Everyone in the group laughed, and Gregory indicated another couple, a short, balding man and his tall, elegantly dressed wife.
    “John and Priscilla Moultrie. John’s with Banker’s Trust and Priscilla teaches at Fairmount Elementary School.”
    Gregory had an annoying habit of introducing a person by telling his line of work. David nodded at the couple, but his attention was on an attractive young woman who had wandered over and was standing on the fringes of the group.
    “What is the Ashmore case, Gregory?” Mrs. Moultrie asked. The young woman was watching him and their eyes met momentarily.
    “Isn’t Ashmore that fellow who raped and murdered those schoolchildren?” her husband asked.
    “Yes,” Professor Betts answered with a smile. “David was able to get the conviction reversed by the state supreme court two weeks ago. A monumental job. He convinced the court to overrule a line of cases going back to eighteen ninety-three.”
    The young woman smiled tentatively, and David nodded. He would make a point, he decided, to talk to her as soon as he could break away from the conversation. The Ashmore case was not one of his favorite subjects.
    “Does that mean he’ll go free?” Mrs. Moultrie asked.
    “No,” David sighed. “It just means that I have to try the whole mess over again. It took a month the last time.”
    “You defended that man?” Mrs. Moultrie asked in a tone that combined amazement and disgust.
    “David is a criminal lawyer,” Gregory said, as if that were an adequate explanation.
    “Maybe I’ll never understand, Mr. Nash”—she seemed to have used his last name intentionally—“but I knew one of those children, and I don’t see how you could have represented someone who did what that man did.”
    “Someone had to represent Ashmore, Priscilla,” Gregory said.
    “I heard he tortured those children before he killed them,” Mrs. Moultrie said.
    David almost instinctively said, “That was never proved,” but he realized in time that, for Mrs. Moultrie, that was not the issue.
    “A lawyer can’t refuse to represent someone because of the nature of his crime,” Professor Betts said.
    “Would you have represented Adolf Hitler, Professor?” Mrs. Moultrie asked without humor.
    There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. Then Professor Betts answered, “Yes. Our judicial system is based on the premise that an individual charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty.”
    “But what if you know your client is guilty, Mr. Nash? Know for a fact that he held three schoolchildren captive for several days, raped them, then murdered them?”
    “Oh, now, Priscilla. That’s unfair,” her husband said. His face was red, and it was clear that he disapproved of the course the conversation had taken.
    David felt uncomfortable. Professor Betts had been defending him, but why did he need a defense for doing something that he was ethically obliged to do? Why shouldthis woman he had never met before feel such obvious hostility toward him?
    “I’m afraid I can’t discuss the facts of the case, Mrs. Moultrie. I’d be violating my client’s confidence if I discussed his guilt or innocence with you.”
    “Hypothetically, then. I really want to know.”
    “You represent a guilty man as hard as you do an innocent man, Mrs. Moultrie, because the system is more important than any

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