Guilty or Else
Echelon, Mar 2009, $13.99
In 1972 Downy, California, Judge Johnson gives the case to his former junior LAPD partner, thirty-four years old new lawyer Jimmy with the admonition "Get your client to plead guilty, or else!". His client Mexican gardener Ernesto Rodriguez refuses to plea bargain as he insists he is innocent in the violent murder of twenty-seven year old Gloria Graham, assistant to charismatic State Senator Berry Welch. The case is a sure shot for the prosecution as the evidence starting with the bloody knife and blood in his truck overwhelms anything the defense has. Jimmy pleads with Ernesto that he could get twenty five if he accepts a guilty plea or life if not. Ernesto says his kids will know he is innocent and that will be his plea.
The case makes no sense to Jimmy as the cops caught Ernesto instantly, why would the judge and DA push a plea bargain conviction with the evidence they have and why are two goons following him. Only Deputy DA Roberta Allen, who is running the prosecution case, seems honest as she wants justice to prevail, but she believes Ernesto killed the victim. Jimmy’s defense gets off the ground because his friend investigator Sol Silverman helps him for a $1 fee starting with learning that Welch and Graham had a hot affair. Jimmy wonders if Welch who refuses to speak to him is the reason for the lighting quick reaction by the State as he is a rising superstar. Jimmy will learn the answers lies in the garbage of politicians owned by the Mob.
GUILTY OR ELSE is a terrific historical legal Noir starring a strong cast who bring to life how powerful the Mob is controlling much of Southern California. Jimmy is a fabulous lead character who knows he is in over his head but remains a dedicated idealist (he personally thinks idiot) as does his courtroom opponent Roberta. Even with the mob owning politicians and civil unrest still common though not like the sixties, Jeff Sheratt makes the case that there was still room for a Jimmy Stewart to fight windmills in a court of law although the impact is abated somewhat as his adversary is even more an ethical idealist than he is; a win at all costs prosecutor would have locked up Ernesto for life plus.