Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Vote for the Best Legal Novel of the Year

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To honor the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law have created the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. And you can help pick this year’s winner.

Novels by Michael Connelly, John Grisham and Randy Singer have been selected as finalists. Vote for your favorite in the poll on this page. Voting ends June 30.

The public’s favorite will be one of the factors considered by the Prize’s all-star jury, composed of novelists David Baldacci and Linda Fairstein; former ABA President Robert Grey; Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees; and CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin. The winner will be announced in July.

Harper Lee’s unflappable, unforgettable Atticus Finch was an instrument of truth, an advocate of justice, and the epitome of reason. To attorneys, he was the lawyer they wanted to be. For nonlawyers, he fostered the desire to become one.

The Prize will be given to the novel published in 2010 that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. It will be given annually.

The Prize will be awarded in conjunction with the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., in September. The winner will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee.

Here’s more about each of the finalists, from the books’ websites:

The Reversal, by Michael Connelly

Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change sides and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder.

After 24 years in prison, convicted killer Jason Jessup has been exonerated by new DNA evidence. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, Los Angeles Police Department Detective Harry Bosch.

Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years.

With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.

The Confession, by John Grisham

An innocent man is about to be executed. Only a guilty man can save him.

For every innocent man sent to prison, there is a guilty one left on the outside. The guilty one doesn’t understand how the police and prosecutors got the wrong man, and he certainly doesn’t care. He just can’t believe his good luck. Time passes, and he realizes that the mistake will not be corrected: the authorities believe in their case and are determined to get a conviction. He may even watch the trial of the person wrongly accused of his crime. He is relieved when the verdict is guilty. He laughs when the police and prosecutors congratulate themselves. He is content to allow an innocent person to go to prison, to serve hard time, and even be executed.

Travis Boyette is such a man. In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, he abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what’s right and confess.

But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they’re about to execute an innocent man?

Fatal Convictions, by Randy Singer

Alexander Madison is part lawyer, part pastor, and part con artist. When a Muslim imam is accused of instigating honor killings, Alex must decide whether to take the case that every other lawyer in town is running away from.

He doesn’t realize until it’s too late that defending the imam may cost him the one thing in life he cares about most.

Fatal Convictions is the story of a lawyer willing to risk it all, and the women who must choose between faith and love.

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