Wednesday, October 5, 2016


The publication process for Prairie Defender is making progress, and they've come out with some advertising copy for the book. We've still got to go through copy editing, page proofs, and indexing, but it won't be as long as it has been. Here's the advertising copy:


According to conventional wisdom, Abraham Lincoln spent most of his law career collecting debt and representing railroads, and this focus made him inept at defending homicide cases. In this unprecedented study of Lincoln’s criminal cases, George Dekle disproves these popular notions. Through careful examination of Lincoln’s homicide cases and evaluation of his legal skills, Dekle demonstrates in Prairie Defender that Lincoln was first and foremost a trial lawyer, that the trial of accused criminals was an important part of his practice, and that he was quite capable of defending murder cases, which he tried at the rate of about one per year.

Dekle begins by presenting the viewpoints of those who see Lincoln as a perfect lawyer whose only flaw was his inability to represent the wrong side of a case and those who believe Lincoln was a less-than-honest legal hack, and he invites readers to compare these stereotypes to the flesh-and-blood Lincoln revealed in each case that is described, including a case where Lincoln assisted the prosecution in an axe murder, a poisoning case he refused to prosecute for $200 but defended for $75,  and a case he won by proving that a supposed murder victim was still alive.

As Dekle deals with each case, he first tells the stories of the feuds, arguments, and insults that led to murder and other criminal activity, giving a gripping view of the seamy side of life in nineteenth-century Illinois. Then he traces the course of the pretrial litigation, describes the trials and the various tactics employed in the prosecution and defense, and critiques the performance of both Lincoln and his adversaries.

Dekle concludes that Lincoln was a competent, diligent criminal trial lawyer who knew the law, could argue it effectively to both judge and jury, and would use all lawful means to defend clients whether they were innocent or guilty. His trial record shows Lincoln to have been a formidable defense lawyer who won many seemingly hopeless cases through his skill as a courtroom tactician, cross-examiner, and orator. Criminal defendants who could retain Lincoln as a defense attorney were well represented, and criminal defense attorneys who sought him as co-counsel were well served to have had Lincoln as a trial partner. Providing insight into both Lincoln’s legal career and the culture in which he practiced law, Prairie Defender resolves a major misconception concerning one of our most important historical figures.