By Joel Cohen with Carla T. Main. Published by Coffeetown Press, 277 Pages, $16.95. Available on Amazon, Kindle and iPad
Are trials really a search for the truth? Does a criminal defense lawyer want to know the “truth” ? Could this knowledge create ethical concerns affecting a defendant’s representation? “Truth Be Veiled” raises this and many other moral quandaries.
Criminal defense lawyers are faced with a myriad of ethical issues whenever they agree to represent a client. Criminal defense attorney Joel Cohen of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and his co-author Carla T. Main, a legal journalist, weave these issues throughout his engaging story of a defense lawyer, Justin Steele and his representation of George Robbins.
Robbins, a straight laced, affluent business man is accused of murdering his wife, by pushing her out of their apartment window. Prior to seeking Steele’s representation, Robbins gives statements to the police. These statements appear to contradict the evidence against Robbins. Steele, with the help of his enthusiastic young associate, Marshall Green, and bossy, opinionated, set-in-her-ways secretary, Cassandra Higgins, prepare to defend Robbins. The story takes many unexpected turns before the reader ultimately learns the jury’s verdict.
Steele uses the Socratic method to guide his young associate through the legal and ethical maze they encounter. Prior to meeting their new client, Steele and Green debate how to approach him. Steele prefers not to obtain the facts of the case from Robbins, instead he wants to guide the first client interview, while his young associate Green wants to know only the facts from the one person who was present when his wife fell.
Who is correct? Should a defense lawyer avoid hearing his client’s “story” or should the lawyer let the client “spill his guts”? What would you do? If you listen to what your client has to tell you, you may be ethically prohibited from raising certain defenses. Should the doctrine of “conscious avoidance,” i.e., avoiding knowing the facts that would establish possible criminal conduct, apply to a lawyer’s ethical obligations?
This novel could be used as a teaching tool in law school ethics classes, bringing such issues to life.
‘Truth Be Veiled” is an engaging and entertaining novel. Cohen and Main create characters whose personalities leapt from the written page. Readers can visualize and empathize with the characters as they wrangle with the case. The book goes beyond the verdict as the authors set the stage for Justin Steele to get involved with another matter.
I hope this is a prelude to more adventures for Justin Steele, because I look forward to reading a sequel.
Laura A. Ward is an Acting Supreme Court Justice assigned to the Criminal Term in New York County.