Excerpt from Chapter 6 – “TRIANGLES AND TRAGEDY”

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Excerpt from Chapter 6 – “TRIANGLES AND TRAGEDY”:

If Williams’s mask dropped, what would people see? A wealthy gay man who
liked young men? Sex between what might be deemed age-inappropriate partners
is not a new phenomenon. Those people don’t all shoot each other. Williams’s
and Hansford’s sexual preferences simply didn’t matter, not to the district attorney,
not to me, and not to anyone else on the prosecution team. All that mattered was
the emotional nature of Williams’s relationship with the man he killed.

To understand that aspect of the relationship, it was necessary to understand
another relationship. There was an additional element present in the
Williams case, one that can and often does lead to violence: a triangle. Danny had
a girlfriend. Williams didn’t like it. That’s something anyone who’s been through
puberty and high school can appreciate.

Straight people kill people. Gay people kill people. Jealous people kill people
with unfortunate frequency. The third category was the only category of interest
in the Williams prosecution. This was what Williams feared—not the label of
gay man, but the label of jealous gay man. This may sound facetious, but it isn’t;
as any veteran homicide investigator can confirm, there are few more fearful
organisms on earth.

Excerpt from Chapter 5 – “REMOVING THE MASK”

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Excerpt from Chapter 5 – “REMOVING THE MASK”:

Although the case evidence would eventually reveal Williams’s true relationship
with Danny Hansford, Williams was busy telling a different
story. He was holding a mask in front of his face like an actor in an ancient Greek
play, playing the mentor of troubled youth rather than an older man having a
taste for young men with rough edges. Which was it? Had Father James taken
Poor Orphan Danny home out of the snow, or had a man with a sweet tooth
taken some candy home one night and gotten hooked? If so, what was a man like
James Williams doing shopping for cheap candy on the street?

How did someone like Danny Hansford—an eighth-grade dropout—end
up with his own room in one of the finest residences in historic Savannah, keeping
intimate company with a wealthy, sophisticated older man? The best person
to tell us is Danny himself.

Among Danny’s belongings was a sketch he drew, possibly of Williams (Figure
47). What is most telling about the sketch, other than the fact that Danny
could draw a little, was what he scribbled on the back. He wrote the word
“school” eleven times, some large, some small, some underlined. He also wrote
this: “What have I done. I’m 20 years old. I suck dicks and get fucked by different
people for money.”

Excerpt from Chapter 4 – “MOTIVE DOESN’T MATTER—BUT IT DOES”

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Excerpt from Chapter 4 – “MOTIVE DOESN’T MATTER—BUT IT DOES”:

Motive is not an essential element of a criminal offense. Motive is often
confused with intent. They are not the same thing.

In New York City in 2013, a man was walking along West 58th Street
between 7th Avenue and Broadway at 2:00 in the afternoon when another individual,
seen on surveillance footage, stepped up behind the man and shot him in
the back of the head. The shooter hopped into a getaway car and sped off. This
was an execution. It doesn’t matter whether the shooter had been paid for the hit
or the guy he killed had insulted his sister. The shooter had the intent to kill (also
known as “malice aforethought”). His reasons were his own.

In the Williams case, proof of criminal intent was provided by Williams. He
said he “intended” to kill Danny Hansford, but with justification. If he was lying,
the intentional killing was not justified.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 – “THE SAINT AND THE ORPHAN”

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Excerpt from Chapter 3 – “THE SAINT AND THE ORPHAN”:

Danny Hansford was a hustler. He was a male hooker. You wouldn’t call
him an escort, because it wasn’t likely that a man in Williams’s position
would allow Hansford to escort him anywhere that polite people gathered. You
wouldn’t find Danny at the opera. You would find him on the street and in the
parks where a far less public business was conducted.

I described that world in my closing argument in Williams I:

All children don’t come from fine homes; some of them come from broken
homes where there’s only one parent. Some of those children and young
men, particularly in this city, as we heard, have an opportunity to become
involved in a culture that probably none of you—I hope none of you—have
ever seen, and probably ninety-nine percent of the people in this community
have never seen. They would be surprised to know it exists, only on television.
Maybe it happens in New York, but not here. It goes on at two o’clock
in the morning, three o’clock in the morning, four o’clock in the morning,
somewhere out there in those streets, and there are some young men who get
caught up in it. Danny Hansford was one of them.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 – “THE MEN”

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Excerpt from Chapter 2 – “THE MEN”:

Williams’s annual holiday party was one of the biggest social events of the
season. It was sumptuous, joyous, filled with laughter and song, attended by the
social elite and political poo-bahs, and topped off by Williams playing the pipe
organ on the second floor, windows open and house lights ablaze. But there were
two parties. The later—unofficial—party the following evening was also sumptuous
and joyous, but different in one key aspect—it was men-only: well-dressed
men with manners befitting the setting and occasion. Williams had yet a third
type of acquaintance, not on either holiday-party guest list: young men from
other walks of a much different life, young men like Danny Lewis Hansford.

In times past, Savannah has been referred to as a beautiful woman with a
dirty face. Her face might have been scrubbed pink and fresh. But if one waited
until dark and melted into the shadows, one might have bumped into Williams,
just as Williams had bumped into Danny, buyer and seller coming to a mutual
bargain and Danny ending up at Mercer House.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “I SHOT HIM”

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Excerpt from Chapter 1 – “I SHOT HIM”:

At 2:58 a.m. on May 2, 1981, Corporal M. J. Anderson and Patrolman
M. A. White received a radio dispatch of a shooting at 429 Bull Street
(Figures 1, 2). Approximately ninety seconds later, Anderson and White pulled
up to a brick mansion facing Monterey Square—one of the remaining gardenlike
squares laid out in the original Savannah city plan in 1733 by General
James E. Oglethorpe. Corporal J. J. Chesler and Patrolman Gibbons arrived
just behind Anderson and White. At the same time, one Joseph Goodman and
girlfriend Nancy Rushing drove up, parked, and followed Anderson and White
through the iron gate and up the stone steps, immediately in front of Chesler
and Gibbons.

Excerpt from the Prologue

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Excerpt from the Prologue:

He did it.

In the early morning hours of May 2, 1981, in the antique-filled study of a
mansion in historic downtown Savannah, fifty-year-old James Arthur Williams
killed twenty-one-year-old Danny Lewis Hansford with three 9mm slugs from a
vintage WWII German Luger. According to Williams, he shot young Hansford
in self-defense—because Hansford had tried to kill him with another vintage
WWII German Luger.

Over the ensuing eight and a half years, following four murder trials, a
record-setting best seller and a major motion picture, a perception arose that
Williams was right, that he had shot and killed Danny Hansford only to save his
own life.

I was there the night it happened, standing in the study of Mercer House
with detectives and a Crime Scene Unit ID officer, surrounded by a wealth of
damning physical evidence. I was the person who advised detectives to arrest
Williams for murder. The truth is that James Williams’s defense of himself did not
begin until after Danny Hansford was dead.

Questions from the Author

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Questions from the Author:

Have you ever served on a criminal jury?

Did you believe you knew the truth or did you believe you saw an edited version, put on for your benefit?

Did you want to hear what was discussed during the occasions, if any, when you were removed from the courtroom for a discussion you weren’t allowed to hear? Did you ever feel like you weren’t getting the whole story?

Did you find the lawyers on either side to be personally offensive?

Did it matter with respect to how you viewed the evidence?

Do you believe that egregious errors of law by the trial court should be corrected on appeal, regardless of which side is harmed by the error?

Do you believe that sowing confusion in an attempt to keep a jury from understanding the evidence is a legitimate exercise of a lawyer’s duty to his or her client?

Do you believe that innocent people are frequently convicted of crimes they didn’t commit? Do you believe that guilty people are frequently set free?

Did you know that only a defendant can appeal a verdict in a criminal case in the United States, no matter how egregious an error might have been make in the trial?

Are you aware how the criminal justice system works in any other country in the world?

If you’ve had experience as a juror or as a victim, is there anything you would change?

Do you believe the oft-repeated claim, with respect to the criminal justice system, that the United States has “the best system in the world”?

Special Quotes from the Book – Part 3

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Special Quotes from the Book – Part 3:


Yes, there are “Rules of Professional Conduct.” However, the legal practice is, in effect, a large club that disciplines itself. For trial behavior, discipline is as rare as a Michigan fan at an Ohio State pep rally. In most cases, the only real risk of being caught is being caught—and being made to cut it out. It’s like the old Truth or Consequences game show, without the consequences part.


Inside the courtroom, a trial can resemble the Wild West without Judge Roy Bean to rein in the combatants. The rule is to fire away and keep firing until you’re the last lawyer standing. That’s inside the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, anything goes.


Criminal trial law includes unique incentives that distort the system. A verdict of not guilty cannot be overturned. In such a system, when a lawyer is willing to exceed the outer limits of advocacy, it can become extremely difficult to keep the proceedings from degenerating. Let me be very clear—not all criminal defense lawyers cross that line, and not all prosecutors are pure. But there is a critical difference: A prosecutor’s egregious misconduct can be appealed. Misconduct by a defense lawyer cannot ever be appealed by the State in a criminal case.

Special Quotes from the Book – Part 2

Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland

Special Quotes from the Book – Part 2:


In the real world, a falsehood would be called a lie. Inside a courtroom, it can be inspired advocacy, depending on the audience. The public often believes the law is a game, too, while having a very negative view of those who play it. An extremely bright medical professional commented to me recently, matter-of-factly, “Don’t all lawyers lie? You sort of expect that, right?” The best response I could muster was, “Not all of them,” which I do sincerely believe.


To be clear: Criminal defense lawyers are free to do whatever they want—within the bounds of the law—whether or not anyone else approves. Hopefully, they stop at the line marking the outer boundary of vigorous advocacy. Unfortunately, some only see that line in their rearview mirror.