The Hanging Judge; Michael Ponsor
Open Road Media - 2013
I was initially attracted to the novel because the story takes place in Western Massachusetts, an area I grew up in. It's a debut novel that examines the death penalty in a state where the death penalty has long been abolished and a double homicide murder trial that just may warrant such a sentence. The case has been moved to the Federal Court system so that a death penalty sentence, if convicted can be imposed.
Federal US District Court judge, David Norcross with just over two years in the position, presides over the murder trial. The trial involves a gang related drive by shooting in Holyoke, MA., which kills a Hispanic drug dealer and an innocent bystander, a white nurse on her way to work. The shooter is identified as an African American former gang member, and now stands trial.
As with true court television dramas, the novel has a full cast of characters: attorneys, witnesses, police, court clerks, family members of the accused and even a romantic interest of the judge. The story gives the reader plenty to think about, including a true death by hanging case from some 200 years earlier in Massachusetts history. For the most part the characters felt convincing, except for when the author explored the pro-death penalty argument. In my opinion, the individuals did not feel very intelligent or convincing. Overall, I was very happy I gave this legal thriller a try, it's a tad long, but worth reading if you enjoy procedural law.
The author has been a Senior US District Court judge in Western Massachusetts, and in 2000 presided over the first capital murder case in Massachusetts in fifty years.