Defending Jacob cover No, you didn’t miss the book club meeting last Thursday, for this month only, we moved the meeting to the third Thursday rather than our traditional second Thursday. So join us on Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 7:00 PM at the Leawood Pioneer Library (4700 Town Center Drive, Leawood, KS) to discuss Defending Jacob by William Landay.

While reading the book, I made note of several issues for possible discussion:

  1. The jury seems to be still out on the existence of a Murder (warrior) Gene (see http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128043329 and http://www.williamlanday.com/2010/05/11/the-murder-gene/). What are your thoughts on the possibility of a  Murder Gene and how that effects your view of agency (individual choice) vs. predestination? On page 130 Jacob ponders “Free will is as important to the law as it is to religion or any other code of morality.” Reactions?
  2. Andy Barber states within the book, “the prosecutor often lives in the community where a crime happens, he often knows the people affected by it. So what? So he wants to catch the murderer even more? That’s not a conflict of interest. Look, the bottom line is, I have a conflict with all murderers. That’s my job. This was a horrible, horrible crime; it was my job to do something about it. I was determined to do just that.” Do you believe there was a conflict of interest? (Page 7-8)
  3. Do you agree or disagree that “A jury verdict is just a guess— a well-intentioned guess , generally, but you simply cannot tell fact from fiction by taking a vote”? (Page 8)
  4. At one point in the book, Laurie says, “I think we overestimate what we can do as parents. Your kid is your kid. You get what you get.” Do you agree or disagree? Why? (page 30)
  5. What was your reaction to the quote on page 110 that ends with “Current practice notwithstanding, by long tradition murder has been strictly a family matter”
  6. Have you ever been on a witness stand? Or on a jury? Jonathan Klein, Jacob’s lawyer, tells Jacob’s mother Laurie, “…every expression, every reaction , every flicker of emotion will be interpreted against you. Laugh , and they’ll say you don’t take the proceedings seriously. Scowl, and they’ll say you’re surly, you’re not contrite, you resent being hauled into court. Cry, and you’re faking.” Is his assessment correct?
  7. On page 132 Jacob asks, “Mom, let me ask you something: why do people only want to talk about inheriting good things? When an athlete has a kid who’s good at sports, nobody has any problem saying the kid inherited his talent. When a musician has a musical kid, when a professor has a smart kid, whatever . [If Jacob has the Murder Gene] What’s the difference?” How would you respond to a child with that question?
  8. On page 198 Dr. Vogel states “the human body is a machine. It is a system, a very complex system made of molecules and driven by chemical reactions and electrical impulses. Our minds are part of that system. People have no trouble accepting that nurture affects behavior. Why not nature?” Where do you stand on the nature vs. nurture argument?
  9. Jacob makes the claim that “This is an aspect of crime stories I never fully appreciated until I became one : it is so ruinously expensive to mount a defense that, innocent or guilty, the accusation is itself a devastating punishment. Every defendant pays a price.” Do you agree?
  10. Ultimately, if you sat on the jury, would you have found Jacob guilty of Ben Rifkin’s murder? What about Hope Connors’ disappearance? Why or why not?
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