Reversible Errors Summary
by Scott Turow

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Reversible Errors Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Reversible Errors draws on Scott Turow’s pro bono death penalty defense work to show how even well-meaning prosecutors can cause justice to miscarry. Corporate attorney Arthur Raven has been assigned the final appeal in a notorious murder, the killing of a popular restaurateur. A ne’er-do-well named Rommy Gandolph has been convicted on circumstantial evidence and a confession evoked under pressure, and since he is both marginally retarded and disagreeable, his fated end has not provoked much sympathy. Raven, however, becomes convinced of Gandolph’s innocence and does battle with the two key figures in the prosecution: detective Larry Starczek, who elicited Gandolph’s confession, and Muriel Wynn, the prosecutor. Starczek and Wynn were once lovers, and since their attraction endures, their professional relationship is complicated by their residual feelings. Both are competent and ambitious, unwilling to simply admit error, especially given Gandolph’s confession and the absence of any other credible suspects. Their debates about the correct response to Raven shows that prosecutorial intransigence can be more than simple stubbornness, for their motives include skepticism about the defense, a righteous regard for justice and the victim’s family, a yearning for closure, and a justifiable pride in what they regard as a job well done.

Raven is aided in his defense by Gillian Sullivan, the former judge who sentenced Gandolph, now disgraced after serving prison time for taking bribes. Raven consults her about the case, and they begin an affair, two lost souls united by Raven’s newfound belief in himself and his professional obligation. By setting up his prosecution and defense teams as two couples in the midst of affairs, Turow shows the human side of a process ordinarily considered dry and professional: Both Wynn and Raven are influenced by their personal and emotional states. For example, since she knows the detective as a lover, Wynn allows Starczek great leeway in his investigative conduct, a leeway not permitted a relative stranger. Raven’s zeal in defense of Gandolph is at least in part...

(The entire section is 517 words.)