I am currently working on a ”historical fiction’ book with the Edgar Smith murder case as the background for an alternative outcome of the actual events. I’ve been steadily researching and writing for the last five months, and hope to have it completed by midyear 2015. In the coming weeks and months I will write more about my progress.
Edgar Smith was in solitary confinement awaiting his execution in the electric chair, sentenced to death for the first degree murder of a 15 year old girl by a jury that deliberated for less than three hours following his two week trial. In his jail cell he studied the law and read extensively. He became acquainted with William F. Buckley, the editor of National Review, and moderator of his own TV program: Firing Line.
By researching and writing his own appeals to the New Jersey Court of Appeals, Smith escaped the electric chair. By befriending Buckley, he was eventually set free when his conviction for first degree murder was set aside for retrial when the presiding judge ruled that evidence against him was gathered illegally. The State of New Jersey decided not to retry him, and he was released from prison after serving 14 years.
While in jail, Smith wrote several books, Brief Against Death, a refutation of the evidence used to convict him, Getting Out, and a novel, A Reasonable Doubt. The Kirkus Review of the novel praises it as “a balanced, painstaking overview of the law as it responds to both the greatnesses and weaknesses of the people it serves.” At the time he wrote the novel, Smith was still desperately trying to avoid execution. There can be very few reasons more compelling for a writer to create a novel, and lots of reasons to read it with a fair amount of attention to the possibility that there was more than just “a balanced overview of the law” at work in the body of the book.
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