Wednesday, January 28, 2009
A Question of Innocence
"I killed my little sister."
Oh, does that chilling line take me back a few years.
A Question of Innocence was my first published book. It was written in 1993-4 and was published in 1995. This is a secular true crime, the story of the "Diary Girl" murder case. I was able to write it through gaining the exclusive story of the defendant and her family.
I was reminded of this book today because somone on Twitter told me she'd ordered it. Q of I is now out of print, so no royalties remain for me. But you can buy it from Amazon, on eBay, and on alibris for starters, starting as low as $1.24. I'm sure it can be found in other used online bookstores as well.
I first attended the "Diary Girl" trial as research for the novel I was writing at the time--Eyes of Elisha. The whole nation was watching the case. Media were everywhere. And they were welcomed by Melvin Belli, attorney for the defense, who was quite the media hound. This case was Belli's last big criminal case before his death. (This story would eventually send me to the Phil Donahue and Leeza shows.)
From the back cover:
Mallory Moore was four years old when she died, apparently in her sleep. But months later, Sharri Moore, Mallory's mother, read a startling entry in her elder daughter, Serena's, diary: the troubled teen's admission of guilt in the murder of her little sister.
Upset and confused, the Moores went to the police. Then came the trial, and the nightmare that followed. For though the facts strongly suggested Serena was innocent, an agine, world famous attorney's controversial defense would shatter an already tragedy-stricken family--damning them with devastating allegations of molestation and abuse. And a frightened young girl would end up in prison for the crime of needed attention and love.
Endorsements: "Captures the twists and turns, legal and psychological, of one of California's most compelling recent murder cases in a lively and arresting style." --Richard North Patterson
"Engrossing...a power story of a real case that reads like a fictional courtroom thriller." --Phillip M. Margolin
A lot of murder trials occur in our legal system, but few contain the elements to make a good true crime. Like the best fiction, a true crime needs a raison d'etre. It should make a point, teach something about the legal system or about the human condition. This case did all those things. It was a hard case to watch and write about. The death of a four-year-old is always tragic. When her only sibling is accused of the crime--in fact confesses to it--the story is even more tragic. What worse situation could parents face?
Yet from a legal and psychological viewpoint the story of Serena Moore is fascinating. Do people write lies in their own diaries? Why would they? What would drive a teenager to wrongfully confess to killing the little sister she so dearly loved? Or was that confession the truth?
Although the book is all true it's written in a fictional style. If you enjoy watching/reading legal crime dramas, the convoluted legal machinations in this trial will surely keep your attention. It is a gripping case. And just like the movies, there's more than a sprinkling of craziness amongst the attorneys. Lawyers do love putting on a show.