Leslie Abramson
 

Leslie Abramson's toughness started with her staring down bullies since her turbulent childhood in Queens, NY. She spent seven years as a public defender exposed her to an ``astonishing number . . . of remarkably stupid, totally crazy or deplorably lazy'' judges whom she charmed and dominated (``No one had to tell me how to take over a courtroom''). 

In 1981, four years into her private practice, she represented one of the killers in the Bob's Big Boy massacre, that year's ``crime of the century.'' Despite her ferocious defense, she lost the case--``all the way to the death penalty.'' But from then on she was on the shortlist for high-profile capital cases. Abramson clearly relishes describing her courtroom tactics and behind-the-scenes maneuvers, so it is disappointing that she confines her commentary on the Menendez trial to a summary of the facts of that case, a few choice words for Judge Stanley Weisberg, and a plea to ``pull the plug'' on cameras in the courtroom. Despite the surprisingly short shrift given to the Menendez trial, a terrific introduction to criminal defense by a master practitioner.

Most people will know Leslie Abramson as the defender of Erik Menendez and as one of the seemingly ubiquitous commentators on the O. J. Simpson trial. If you remember her as brash, blond, and opinionated, you'll certainly recognize her in her 1997 autobiography 'The Defense Is Ready'. Abramson doesn't try for sensationalism, she is still passionate about her clients in general and Erik Menendez in particular. 

Erik Menendez's defense attorney has proved why she's one of the best in the business. For 20 years predating her controversial representation of the younger Menendez brother, Abramson worked on behalf of accused baby-killers, bank robbers, and hit men, both in private practice and for the public defender's office in L.A. More than a collection of war stories, this book shows how the attitudes and tactics evident in the Menendez defense informed Abramson's work from the beginning. Her willingness to withhold judgment, to become immersed in the life of her client, and to argue like hell--not necessarily for exoneration but for a ``fair verdict''--are trademark Abramson strengths. 

Leslie Abramson never met a felon she didn't like. . . . As one client, a contract killer, puts it, "Leslie was so good. For a while there she even had me believing I didn't do it." . . . Ms. Abramson has an astounding ability to excuse the inexcusable.