John Lantigua: A Gripping Tale of a Landmark Trial:
This book concerns events in 1979-1980 in the City of Miami, but it has relevance for the entire U.S. in the year 2020. That’s because it concerns the death of a black man at the hands of police officers, none of whom were black, and how, despite what seemed to be overwhelming evidence against them, they were all exonerated.
That is a scenario that has become a recurring nightmare in our country. John Dorschner, a veteran Miami journalist, presents a meticulous, day-to-day account of the trial. Along the way,he illuminates the flaws in the approach to the case taken by prosecutors and how defense attorneys exploited those errors to win the freedom of their clients.
Dorschner’s book becomes a primer on how not to present a case of police brutality. Given that most members of the public expected guilty verdicts, when that did not materialize, violence broke out on the streets of Miami.
Dorschner describes that in terse, precise prose. He also puts the entire story into context by reporting on the history of racism and economic inequality in Miami that had set the stage for the events in question. If you are interested in the history of Miami, Florida history, civil rights history, or you want a close-up study of emotion-packed trial, this book is for you.
Washington attorney Martin Lobel: “John Dorschner, who has lived in Miami for over 40 years and was a feature writer for the Miami Herald, has written a book that every prosecutor or defense attorney facing a high profile case should read.
“With the luxury of time and hindsight the author reviewed the transcript of the trial, interviewed most of the participants and evaluated the many choices the prosecutors and defense attorneys had to make and the consequences of their decisions. He had the help of two very experienced trial lawyers who contributed comments on the decisions as he discussed them. As a retired litigator, I kept agreeing with most of their comments but I also understand there are always 3 arguments: the one you’re prepared to give, the one you actually give and the one you should have given. But the last is usually only apparent when you’re leaving the courthouse.
” Just as importantly, he analyses how the press and the attorneys views of the trial differ. In this case, the press retelling of the McDufflie killing by police officers focused on the dramatic which led to dashed expectations by the Black community. Although TV was probably far more influential than the print accounts, neither had the time to explain the defenses efforts to undermine the prosecution’s case which was so influential in bringing a quick acquittal of all the police officers.
Miami attorney Rick Katz: “That story… needed to be told by a great journalist. John Dorschner has stepped to the plate and written this story after years of research. Dorschner accurately takes us through the night of the motorcycle chase which led to McDuffie’s apprehension and beating, the ensuing publicity and investigation, the charging of the police officers, the trial, and the aftermath. Dorschner also takes a critical look at the media coverage of this case and the media’s role in community’s reaction to the verdict.
“Verdict on Trial is an essential read for those of us who live in Miami and want to understand our social history. However, the parallel with so many other cities which have struggled with deaths of minorities at the hands of law enforcement makes this book relevant and essential for people in urban communities throughout the United States.”
Miamian Bob Smith: The “book did exactly what a good book is meant to do, inspire remembrance and emotion and keep one glued to the story to the end. Our city has certainly come a long way in the forty years hence, and for all our faults that remain, I’m glad we’ve lived to see the progress we’ve made thus far.”