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Reviewed by Jessie Lilley for Readers' Favorite
What Went Wrong With Oscar Toll? is an extraordinary book. If you love court room drama, don’t read it. This isn’t about that. What author Charles Bush gives us is a crash course in Appellate Court proceedings. In short, he takes us through the process of building a legal appeal — in this case, a Death Penalty Appeal. Oscar Toll is a simple fellow who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. He’s now been tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the State of California. Our hero, Eric Lawson, has the dubious pleasure of preparing and presenting the case for appeal. In the midst of this work, his wife Pilar decides the 23-year marriage is over. Ultimately, Lawson must come up with new evidence to try to overturn the death penalty. The journey is long and arduous and, at times, maddening. Bush takes us by the hand and, step by enlightening step, he shows us how it’s done.
By far the most interesting thing about this story is the detective work involved. Perry Mason had Paul Drake to do the legwork for him. It would seem, however, based on Mr. Bush’s work, that the lawyer does the work in real life; especially a lawyer for the State who has an extremely limited budget at his disposal. Lawson is all over the Central Coast of California, from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay and south to the high desert, digging up the information required to get his man off Death Row.
It’s quite a trip, exciting and infuriating by turns, giving the reader a delicious behind the scenes look at why it is, anyway, that it takes so long to put a person to death in this extraordinary country of ours. The subject of countless backyard barbeque carryings-on, everyone and his brother will tell you what a waste of taxpayer’s money it is. Law students and laymen alike should grab a copy and read about Oscar Toll and his lawyer’s search for the facts, before offering an uninformed opinion again. I’ll be purchasing some copies to hand around to friends this Christmas.