William Landay: Defending Jacob

Imagine this: You are first assistant DA and you just found out that there was a murder in your own community. A 14 year old boy, Ben Rifkin, was stabbed on his way to school in the park you jog through every morning.  You decide to head the case and quickly discover that Ben attended the same school as your own son, Jacob. While investigating what appears to be a hopeless case, you find reason to suspect that your son may be guilty. What would you do?

The story begins one year after the murder of Ben Rifkin. Andrew Barber, former assistant DA, has been summoned by prosecutor Neal Logiudice who questions the way Andy handled the murder case. The book goes back and forth between the current trial and the devastation that hit Newton county in 2007.

When Andy first began his investigation, none of the students at Ben’s middle school would talk, there was barely any substantial evidence, and no real suspects either. But Andy gets an anonymous email inviting him to a Facebook group made in honor of Ben. He decides to check it out and reads through the comments until he freezes at one made by his son’s best friends Derek Yoo. Derek basically calls Jacob out, accusing Jacob of possessing a knife and having used it against Ben.

Initially, Andy hesitates to make much of the comment. I mean, what parent would want to believe it were even a possibility right? That is, until, he actually finds a knife in Jacob’s drawer. However, he never once doubts his son, or at least that’s what he tells himself for the duration of Jacob’s trial. Yet, instead of turning the knife in as possible evidence, Andy reprimands his son and gets rid of it. Then, when Derek’s comment is discovered by investigators, Andy is kicked off the case and Logiudice, who relentlessly insists Jacob is guilty, takes over.

Through this book, I was definitely able to get see high-profile cases from a different light. I think when it comes to crimes like murder, we never really think about the impact the case will have on the people involved. Rather, we just want to know, “who dun it?” But as you will read in this book, trials like this can severely damage the life of people involved, both directly and indirectly. Indeed, Jacob’s family may never be the same again after this. Furthermore, we also want to know the “truth!” Yet, as the book point out, the verdict of a trial is not necessarily “the truth,” it’s just closure. Indeed, “not guilty” does not mean “innocent” and “guilty” does not necessarily mean the defendant was actually guilty.

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