Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments Summary

Dominick Dunne


(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Dominick Dunne’s essays in Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments give readers yet another look at several of the more notoriously lurid murders that have intrigued so many Americans over the last twenty years. The essays first appeared in Vanity Fair magazine.

Americans seem to be addicted to true crime accounts of grisly murders involving the glitterati—the idle rich, the same kind of people about whom Dunne has also written so viciously in his fiction. Justice takes its readers into the courtroom, the bedroom, and the parlors of the wealthy, exploring the psyches not only of the crime victims and their alleged murders but also of the hangers-on associated with the crime.

The title essay, “Justice,” is the most affecting, detailing Dunne’s experiences resulting from the brutal murder of his only daughter, Dominique. This piece shows readers a father attempting to come to terms with the needless violent death of a beloved daughter and with the aftermath. Dunne takes particular pains to skewer the legal system that treated her killer, John Sweeney, so lightly.

Dunne is masterful at making the sleazy rich look even more repugnant—from the victims and their killers, to the associates and hangers on, to the lawyers, judges and assorted other legal eagles associated with the trials. The portraits Dunne offer are unpleasant, perhaps more so because the people he is describing are real and their words are their own. Punctuated by material from Dunne’s personal interviews and reminiscences with and about these wealthy folks, unsavory stories emerge, the details of which one might rather not have known.

An insider in the world of the rich and famous, Dunne capitalizes on these connections to offer readers intimate snapshots of such notorious victims, murderers, and accused killers as Lyle and Eric Menendez, Sunny and Claus von Bulow; Alfred Bloomingdale’s mistress, Vicki Morgan and Marvin Pancoast; and billionaire banker, Edmund Safra. Of course, no contemporary exploration of the violent lives of the rich and famous would be “complete” without, as one of Dunne’s essay’s titles puts it, “All O. J., All the Time.” A fair portion of Justice is devoted to various aspects of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and the trial of her alleged murderer, ex-husband, O. J. Simpson.