Book Signings and Appearances

Great mini-book tour last week in Atlanta/Savannah. Three Barnes & Noble signings, a great signing session at “E. Shaver, Booksellers” in historic downtown Savannah, and a speech + Q&A with the downtown Kiwanis Club at the famous Pirates’ House.BookSigning-Alpharetta

Signings and Appearances Coming Up!!

Book signings and speaking engagements coming up (so far / more to come):

  • Barnes & Noble | Mall of Georgia (3/25)
  • E. Shaver, Booksellers | Savannah (3/26)
  • Barnes & Noble | Oglethorpe Mall Savannah (3/27)
  • Kiwanis Club of Savannah – Downtown (3/29)
  • Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council – Jekyll Island, Georgia (7/20)


Excerpt From Chapter 41: NOT INNOCENT

News sources, web sites, and casual commentary routinely repeat the misstatement that Williams was “cleared of all charges” or found to be “innocent” by his Augusta jury. Nothing could be further from the truth. If James Williams had been cleared of all charges, he would never have been tried.

Juries don’t clear people of charges. People are cleared of charges when, for example, it turns out they were in Casablanca when the crime was committed. “Cleared” indicates a judgment that a person did not, as a matter of irrefutable fact, commit the acts alleged, yet it has continued to be erroneously suggested that a jury found Williams “innocent” of the murder of Danny Hansford. That contention confuses legal responsibility with factual responsibility.

It is no small thing that a jury verdict acquitting a defendant is termed “not guilty” rather than “innocent.” There is a significant difference. It can help to insert the word “proved” into the phrase: not proved guilty. “Innocent” is not a choice on a jury verdict form.

Excerpt from Chapter 30: “THE TRIAL”

From the analysis of the third Williams murder trial:

On a related note, Williams’s mother attended this trial, whereas Danny Hansford’s mother was not allowed to be present in the courtroom. Williams’s lawyers placed Danny’s mother under subpoena for the sole purpose of keeping her out of the courtroom, where she might present a sympathetic image. Witnesses are routinely sequestered to prevent one witness from hearing the testimony of the others. In this case, Williams’s lawyers invoked the rule against Danny’s mother, for another transparent reason: They didn’t want to remind the jury that the pit bull had a mother. They never called her as a witness. It’s a common ploy and a clear abuse of the sequestration rule.

If I had been presiding, I would have asked counsel for a commitment on the record as to their intention to call Hansford’s mother, the basis for her testimony, and an anticipated time frame for her testimony. Absent satisfactory answers to those questions, I would have told her to come in and have a seat. She had a right to hear the trial of the man accused of killing her son.

Some Early Reviews . . .

“A meticulous, intuitive, and riveting nonfiction work.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This nonfiction book often resembles a torrid TV drama…” – Kirkus Reviews

5 out of 5 stars! “I loved this book, can’t wait to read more from this author.” – Judy Boose, NetGalley Reviewer

Excerpt From Chapter 47: “A BOOK, A MOVIE, A TOURIST TSUNAMI”

The Midnight phenomenon is not the first example of the City of Savannah becoming caught up in popular-culture mania. Portions of Forrest Gump were also shot in and around the city. Forrest (also known as Tom Hanks) sat on a bench eating his box of chocolates at the southernmost entrance to Wright Square.

Savannah’s pride at having been the site of this historic chocolate-munching moment grew to the point that some thought it would be a wonderful idea to build a statue of Forrest eating his box of chocolates on the “historic” site where it took place. Once it was pointed out that Forrest was not a real person, the movement lost steam.

Perhaps, instead, the city should have commissioned a statue of Danny Hansford, who ended up sparking an influx of tourist dollars into Savannah unparalleled in the city’s history. He did far more for Savannah’s tourist trade by being shot dead by Williams than Forrest Gump ever did by eating a box of Whitman’s.

Excerpt from Chapter 10 – “THE STORY THAT WOULDN’T STAND STILL”

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

Excerpt from Chapter 10 – “THE STORY THAT WOULDN’T STAND STILL”:

Williams didn’t only tell several different stories, he also exaggerated elements
of every one of them. The following are segments of Williams’s interview:

  • Williams said that they had attended a movie earlier in the evening at a
    local drive-in theater.
  • Williams said that by the time they returned to his home at 429 Bull
    Street, Hansford had smoked nine marijuana cigarettes and had drunk a
    half-pint of whiskey.
  • “I thought what he had consumed was far better than all the pills he
    used to take. He had come a long way in the two years I had been working
    with him.”

Only nine marijuana cigarettes and a half-pint of whiskey? During one
movie? This was a testament to Williams’s skill as a mentor of troubled youth?

  • The two played a game on a new computer he had recently bought
    Hansford. Then, as he rose to leave the room, Hansford accused him of
    not enjoying the game. “He grabbed me by the throat and said, ‘You’ve
    been ill. Why don’t you just go off someplace and die?’”
  • Hansford then stomped the keyboard of the computer “to death” and
    began breaking furniture in the living room. … Williams found his way
    into a room he used as his office and sat down at his desk.

Excerpt from Chapter 9 – “THE CHATTY SUSPECT”

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

Excerpt from Chapter 9 – “THE CHATTY SUSPECT”:

Though a suspect has the “right to remain silent,” as any television viewer
knows, in a self-defense case there is pressure to talk. If you’re innocent,
wouldn’t you act innocent? That’s the reasoning. When a suspect talks, however,
his or her version of events can then be checked against the evidence. Investigators
know what the puzzle should look like and can match the evidence to the
suspect’s story, or prove it doesn’t match. Game over.

Even in this respect the Williams case was unusual. Not only did James
Williams talk, he talked at length. And he didn’t stop. He actually gave an exclusive
interview to the Georgia Gazette laying out his version of events in detail. In
doing so, he provided us with a virtual blueprint against which to set the physical
evidence. He also reduced the ability of his defense to shape the story to better
suit the facts—not that I’m suggesting a defense attorney would ever
consciously change a story to better fit the facts of a case.

Excerpt from Chapter 8 – “ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS, SCIENCE”

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

Excerpt from Chapter 8 – “ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS, SCIENCE”:

Contrary to popular myth, circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence.
In fact, circumstantial evidence can be the strongest evidence known to
mankind, while some direct evidence—such as eyewitness testimony—can be so
unreliable as to be worthless.

I could argue that all evidence is circumstantial: Someone claiming they saw
an event involves circumstances that require scrutiny: the claimant’s ability to see
clearly what they claim to have seen, possible motivation to lie about what they
claim to have seen, or whether they were actually present at the time and place.
Even a confession involves a set of circumstances that must be evaluated. The distinction
between “direct” and “circumstantial” evidence causes more trouble than
it’s worth, in my view.

Particularly in self-defense cases, such as in Williams, the suspect is often the
only witness. There is no third party to cry fair or foul. The deceased will never
speak again. Where is reliable direct evidence supposed to come from?