Monday, March 19, 2012

The Last Plea Bargain - Interview and Giveaway!

Update 3/26/12 9:15 am WINNER!

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18
Timestamp: 2012-03-26 14:11:17 UTC

Congrats to karenk! Email me your address, Karen, and you will receive a copy of this book and an autographed book plate from Randy Singer. Thanks to everyone for entering!

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I am delighted to tell you about an incredible novel as well as share an interview with the author today! Grab a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a mocha with Randy Singer. First, here's a peek into his latest novel, The Last Plea Bargain.


The Last Plea Bargain
Randy Singer
(Tyndale House Publishers)
ISBN: 978-1414333212
February 2012/432 pages/$13.99

Plea bargains may grease the rails of justice, but for Jamie Brock, prosecuting criminals is not about cutting deals. In her three years as assistant DA, she’s never plea-bargained a case and vows she never will. But when a powerful defense attorney is indicted for murder and devises a way to bring the entire justice system to a screeching halt, Jamie finds herself at a crossroads. One by one, prisoners begin rejecting deals. Prosecutors are overwhelmed, and felons start walking free on technicalities. To break the logjam and convict her nemesis, Jamie must violate every principle that has guided her young career. But she has little choice. To convict the devil, sometimes you have to cut a deal with one of his demons.



MY THOUGHTS:
I've rendered my verdict: The Last Plea Bargain is Randy Singer's most compelling, and perhaps his most thought-provoking, novel to date. Singer takes the reader deep into the legal system and beyond the courtroom where prosecutors and defense attorneys wage a war of legal maneuvering and where the outcome is a matter of life and death. I can't say enough good things about this book. As a novel, it is simply a great read, with plenty of suspense, verbal sparring, and drama woven together as two cases parallel and overlap in the personal and professional life of prosecutor Jamie Brock. Beyond that, however, this novel made me think -- about mercy, justice, repentance, faith, and how all of those impact (or should impact) our legal system. Randy Singer expertly presents Truth while at the same time evenly portraying both sides of issues which are less clear-cut. I could not put this book down, and The Last Plea Bargain stayed on my mind for days after I finished it. You be the judge - grab a copy of this book today!

A CHAT WITH RANDY SINGER:

I always love interviewing authors, but I was particularly thrilled to be one of the bloggers chosen to conduct an email interview with Randy Singer for this blog tour. About five or six years ago, Randy preached at our church. At that time he was the president of the North American Mission Board. To be honest, I have heard untold numbers of visiting preachers from boards and seminaries throughout my lifetime in the church, and I braced myself for what could be a rather dry and esoteric sermon. How wrong I was! Randy preached a compelling sermon from the first sentence to the final Amen. When I discovered he was also an author, I knew I had to check out his books (no pun intended!) and I have found them just as captivating. You are in for a treat as Randy shares below.

1. Jamie Brock has a well-earned reputation as a tough-as-nails prosecutor. She pursues justice with a passion ignited by her own personal loss, refusing to plea-bargain. To many of us outside of the legal system, plea bargains can be perplexing, allowing criminals to receive less than the prescribed punishment for their infraction. Yet as parents, we often plea-bargain with our children, telling them a punishment will be less severe if they'll "come clean" and admit their guilt! Was Jamie right in her view or too harsh? What is the proper role of plea-bargaining?

What an excellent analogy! And, to be honest, I had never thought of it like that, although I “plea-bargained” with my kids for eighteen years each.

If you’re asking me, I think Jamie was too harsh. Here’s why—the system actually anticipates that prosecutors will plea bargain. Most of the sentencing guidelines we have in place today are pretty draconian and there are lots of ways prosecutors can throw multiple counts at defendants for essentially the same conduct. It’s not unusual for a defendant to be facing four or five felonies arising out of one set of activities. So the system basically gives prosecutors a lot of leverage, a big hammer, if you will, to hold over a defendant’s head to get them to plead guilty. The law does this, knowing that most of the time the defendant will plead guilty and the prosecutor will exercise some discretion so that the defendant doesn’t serve maximum time on every charge. But when a prosecutor like Jamie is on a crusade and basically throws the book at everybody (because of compelling personal reasons), the end result can be too harsh.

2. Jamie faces an ethical dilemma when she stumbles across evidence that could free a convicted murder on a technicality.
The system sometimes required us to set guilty people free in order to protect the integrity of the process and everyone's constitutional rights. . . .[O]ur job was to pursue justice and not just win cases. But now, on the most important case of my life, I was playing fast and loose with the rules. (p. 237)
Technicality issues can be even harder to understand than plea bargains! How does this indeed "protect the integrity of the process and everyone's constitutional rights?"


A good prosecutor understands that his or her job is not to get convictions but to do justice. That’s why prosecutors are required to give all exculpatory evidence (stuff that tends to prove a defendant is innocent) to the defense lawyer. Good prosecutors are also committed to the “rule of law,” i.e. the integrity and finality of the legal process. Prosecutors have a role in our judicial system and it is not to be the judge and jury. So, if a prosecutor decides that somebody is guilty and therefore the prosecutor is not going to turn over exculpatory evidence as our Constitution requires, then the prosecutor has put himself or herself into the position of being judge, jury and executioner!

There is a saying in the law that it is better for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to go to jail. (That’s why most of the rules in our criminal justice system are stacked in favor of the defendant—proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the Fifth Amendment, prosecutors can’t generally appeal adverse results, etc.) To be honest, most people don’t agree with this saying unless they are in the role of that one innocent person being accused by the state. In this country, we should never live in fear that an over-zealous prosecutor is going to try to take our freedom away by “playing fast and loose” with the rules. The state simply has too many weapons at its disposal to allow such conduct. Therefore, a prosecutor has to follow the rules and the Constitutional process even when he or she thinks (because the prosecutor can never know for sure) that the defendant is guilty. We are innocent until proven guilty. And we are only proven guilty when we are convicted after a fair trial or if we plead guilty. Until then, we are entitled to be treated as innocent persons.

In some ways, prosecutors have the hardest job. But in some ways, the easiest. They don’t have to worry about defending a client even if the client is wrong. Their only job is to pursue justice.

3. The death penalty is another hot button issue that is touched on in this novel, made more complex by the conversion experience of Antoine Marshall. (This brings to mind the case of Karla Fay Tucker in Texas from several years ago.) Does the New Testament cancel out the death penalty? Should repentance be a factor when considering the commutation of a death sentence?

I will have to “take the Fifth” on the first part of this question! Not because I don’t want to answer, but because I worked hard in the book to present both sides of the death penalty debate from the perspective of two Christian lawyers. My intent and hope was to be evenhanded and fair so the reader could decide.

I definitely think “repentance” should be a factor in whether a death penalty should be commuted. It’s not fashionable in our society to call it “repentance,” we usually use more politically-correct terms like rehabilitation, but whatever we call it, repentance and subsequent evidence of repentance through changed behavior, need to be a factor. Now, having said that, it still seems to me that there are some crimes so heinous and reprehensible that commutation shouldn’t be handed out no matter what. And I think a truly repentant defendant might understand that. The repentant thief on the cross cried out to Christ, asking Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into his glory. The thief didn’t ask Christ to get him off the cross and Christ didn’t volunteer. Sometimes, true repentance is shown by an attitude that acknowledges the justice of the punishment.

4. Jamie is just as unrelenting in how she pushes herself -- whether it's on the kayak, running, working, or burying her pain and guilt -- as she is in her quest for justice. She even holds God at arm's length. Can someone offer mercy who has not received/accepted mercy him/herself?

Unrelenting is a great way to describe Jamie. She doesn’t have an “off” switch. Everything is at 100%.

Mercy means not giving someone what they deserve. It’s a great struggle for somebody who has not been shown mercy to extend it himself or herself but I think it’s possible. You see it sometimes with POWs or even survivors of concentration camps. Mercy has to start somewhere, with someone. Most often, we extend mercy as a reaction to our understanding that God has been merciful to us. But sometimes, we are called to extend mercy even though nobody on this earth has been merciful to us. That is real heroism.

5. When I finished this novel, I kept thinking of Micah 6:8: "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." And James 2:14 says "Mercy triumphs over judgment." Obviously, only God is truly just and merciful. How can we balance judgment and mercy? Can we have one without the other? How would embracing these verses impact our legal system and our society as a whole?

You are exactly right when you ask the question: “How can we balance judgment and mercy?” It is a balance and I believe that one without the other is dangerous.

It takes courage to pursue justice. You have to stare evil in the face and demand accountability. It is easier to let evil have its day. So, if we cling only to mercy, then there is nothing to stop the advance of true evil. We live in a constant state of spiritual warfare. And God is a God of justice. We should be irate at injustice in the world and willing to risk our own lives to stop it.

But passionately seeking justice is just one step away from vengeance. And Scripture tells us not to take revenge into our own hands. Romans 12:19. Instead, we should leave room for God’s wrath, not trying to overcome evil with evil but overcoming evil with good. Romans 12:20-21.

How do we draw this line? I believe a lot of it has to do with motivation. Are we mad because somebody hurt us or disrespected us? Chances are, that’s vengeance. On the other hand, are we striving for justice for others, or devoting ourselves to a just cause? Chances are, that’s seeking justice.

6. Lawyer jokes aside, what has been the toughest thing for you to reconcile or process as an attorney who is a committed Christian?

There are a lot of aspects to being an aggressive, competitive, trial attorney that cause friction for a Christian. For example, the negotiation process in civil cases and plea bargaining in criminal cases is largely based on misdirection and deception. Let’s say your client will settle the case for $50,000. Do you tell the other side that in your opening offer? Of course not! You say that you are willing to settle for $100,000 but you have “room to negotiate.” Then the other side asks, “What is your bottom line?” Do you tell them? Do you leave yourself some wiggle room? The point is—navigating the negotiation process and maintaining your integrity can be hard.

Also, being an aggressive trial attorney means you sometimes have to really attack the credibility of the other side’s witnesses on cross-examination. And many times, these are really nice folks! Now, as a Christian, you must do it professionally and fairly, but it still means that you are creating a lot of tension and conflict.

Lastly, there are times when the law entitles your client to one thing but fairness and grace require another. Our job as lawyers is to represent our client zealously within the bounds of the law. At the same time, we can counsel them on what the “right” thing is to do, but we cannot require that they go there.

7. What gives you the greatest satisfaction in your practice?

I love having my own firm because I can represent regular people who are up against long odds and need somebody to be an advocate for them. Scripture says that Christ is our advocate (1 John 2:1) and I believe that when we fulfill that role for someone, we are being Christ-like.

In my role as both pastor and lawyer, I often get to be both lawyer and pastor. For example, I have several cases where my clients have lost a family member due to someone else’s conduct. As a pastor, I can help them through the grieving and coming to terms with the loss. As a lawyer, I can help them obtain justice.

The real life case that started me thinking about The Last Plea Bargain is an excellent example. The Somerville daughters lost their father and we believe he was poisoned by their step-mother. Seeking justice for them as a lawyer while ministering to them in my pastoral role was a great privilege.

8. What's next on your docket? Are you already working on another book? Are you still dividing your time between preaching, practicing law, and writing? Assuming you have any spare time, what do you enjoy doing?

I’m working on my next book tentatively entitled Rule of Law. It will come out next spring. It’s the story of another flawed protagonist. He is a former college quarterback who got caught up in a point-shaving scandal, served time in prison, and then went to law school and became a lawyer. He finally gets his first job but ends up at a firm where somebody is killing off all the firm’s lawyers, one-by-one (even lawyers who try to leave the firm). It’s a story about loyalty and trust, honor and betrayal.

Still preaching at Trinity Church, running the Singer Legal Group, writing and serving as an adjunct professor at Regent Law School. Spare time is for sissies! Seriously, I spend my spare time running, paddling my outrigger and enjoying Virginia Beach. It’s tough living this close to the ocean, but somebody’s got to do it!

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions and for writing such great novels. I hope to cross paths with you again one day this side of heaven!

Great, great, great questions! Hope to see you this side of heaven as well!

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GIVEAWAY!
That makes me smile every time I read it! I hope that blessed you as much as it did me! And now, it is my delight, thanks to Tyndale's generosity, to give a copy of The Last Plea Bargain to one of you! The winner will receive a certificate from Tyndale which can be redeemed at your local Christian bookstore (or through Tyndale if no store is available) as well as a signed bookplate from Randy Singer. To enter, leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm CDT Sunday, 3/25/12, and I will draw a winner using random.org. US Residents only, please. You must include an email address if you don't have a blog so I can contact you. (Email address should be written as "name at provider dot com".)

ABOUT RANDY SINGER
Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned more than 10 legal thrillers and was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children. Visit his website at www.randysinger.net.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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19 comments:

Beckie B. said...

Thanks for the review, interview and giveaway! msudawgATcomsouthDOTnet

Wendy said...

I enjoy Randy's books. Thanks for offering this one. It looks good.
Wendy
wsmarple/at/gmail/dot/com

Janice said...

This is a really classy looking blog site! Thanks for sharing the interview with Randy Singer. He is certainly a gifted brother in Christ. It was interesting to hear the story behind the inspiration for the book. Please accept my entry to possibly win the book. Blessings, Janice jsmithg(at)hotmail(dot)com

Kim said...

A STELLAR INTERVIEW MY FRIEND!!!

I can now ask, WWLA? ;)

Kim

Linda said...

To date, By Reason of Insanity by Randy has been the ultimate book. In fact, some talk radio shows were talking it up as well! I would love to have the opportunity to win The Last Plea Bargain to see if it tops the former book. Randy, by far, is my most favorite legal novel writer. Please enter me.

Beth said...

Thanks for another great review, interview and giveaway. I love his other books. Any court room drama is a must read for me and this one looks like it makes you dig deep and think!

Deborah Dee Harper said...

I'm reading one of Randy's books now and loving it. I can't wait to get my hands on this one! Thanks for a great post.

Blessings,
Deb Harper
deetales@gci.net

Sharon said...

Great interview! Thank you Randy and Linda! "The Last Plea Bargain" sounds like a thought provoking read. Would love read the book. Sounds like a great story for a book club discussion!
Sharon
smoore(at)tcq(dot)net

AuburnChick said...

Oh my goodness! How exciting that you got to interview the author!!!

I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to win a copy of this book! My at-risk students would really connect with the topic matter, and I just know that we would have amazing discussions about it!!

Thanks for entering me in the giveaway, Linda. I'm pretty sure you have my email address. :-)

misskallie2000 said...

Great interview. I know I will enjoy reading this book. Sounds like a sit on the edge of your seat book. Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us Randy.
Thanks for the opportunity to enter giveaway.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

by Pegg Thomas said...

I haven't read any of Randy's books, but this looks like a good one to start with!
twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com

lorlyn63 said...

Thanks for the interview Randy and Linda - enjoy getting to know authors better! I have never read any of Randy's books, but this one sounds very interesting and has me intrigued. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of "The Last Plea Bargain."

God Bless,
Lori

triplel(at)evertek(dot)net

windycindy said...

Great interview!
I enjoy reading Randy's books
and this one would be no exception...
Many thanks, Cindi
jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

quilly said...

Great interview! I will have to put this novel on my TBR list. I know it will be great I loved the last Randy Singer novel I read.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Awesome interview! Love Randy Singer's books. Would love to be entered. Thank you, Linda! :-)
dineen at dineenmiller dot com.

Jo said...

Thanks for the interview and giveaway. It sounds like a awesome book. I would love to read it.

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

atthegrand said...

I have several of Randy's books on my shelf. Thanks for the fabulous, in-depth review!

karenk said...

a great interview/posting...thanks for the chance to read this fascinating novel :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Pam K. said...

I'm barely getting this comment in on time; somehow I missed this interview earlier in the week. I haven't yet read any books by Randy Singer but I need to start! This book sounds great. Thanks for the interview with the background info and the chance to win a copy of The Last Plea Bargain.

pmk56[at]sbcglobal[dot]net