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Farin Powell (Author)
FOWM: I have read your third and most recent novel; it's a fascinating fast-paced story, but I believe our readers would love to hear you talking about your novel.
Farin Powell: Thank you for inviting me to sit down and talk with you about The Judge. It's a legal thriller where three ex-convicts, who believe their lives have been ruined by the harsh sentences of Judge Walter McNeil, conspire to seek revenge. Out for retribution, they kidnap and even proceed to torture the Judge. The lead kidnapper, who was involved in the disappearance of the judge's daughter four years earlier, also has another plan-to remove the Judge from presiding over the triple murder case where his nephew is a co-defendant. He constructs a scheme to get the judge convicted and sent to jail for a long time. This creates a twisted web that connects the lives of both the criminals and the judge himself. Amanda Perkins, a savvy criminal defense attorney and Aristo Manfredi, a crafty detective who has a crush on her team up to unravel the clues and free the Judge.
FOWM: I've seldom seen a legal thriller having a judge as a protagonist. What made you decide to choose a judge as the main character?
Farin Powell: As a criminal defense attorney, I practiced for 25 years and represented more than 2100 clients. I wanted to reflect the flaws in our criminal justice system. Some judges, when they put their black robes on, the god-like feeling empowers them to do anything they want. Amanda Perkins, the attorney character in my novel, has a defense attorney's point of view about our criminal justice system. For example, in a conversation with detective Manfredi she says that as a member of the society she feels responsible for those in jail. I feel the same way. If society had provided housing, education and jobs for youth offenders, they wouldn't be shoplifting, selling drugs and becoming professional criminals. So I believe the society has failed them.
I was advising one of my juvenile clients against the use of horrible drugs like heroin. His response was, "when I walk outside my door, the drug dealer is at my door step." So I wanted to reflect the need for communities to keep drugs out of their neighborhoods and provide safe and healthy environments for their kids.
The Judge - by Farin Powell
FOWM: What do you think about the role of the government in fighting against crimes and making our criminal justice system better?
Farin Powell: I believe the government plays a great role in creating a better system. Whether we are talking at the federal level, state level, or local government. Here in the United States, drug addicts are treated as criminals, but in Nordic countries such as Holland, Norway, Sweden, they're treated as addicts. I lived and practiced international law (not criminal law) in Holland for several years. But I'm familiar with the Dutch legal system, which is based on the Napoleonic Code of 1804. They changed the penal code tremendously to focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. And maybe that's the reason they keep closing jails, because they don't have enough prisoners to fill their prisons. Sweden has an Open Prison system. I know that Holland, a country with a 17 million or so population or Sweden, with a population of 9 million cannot be compared to U.S. But there are aspects of their success that can be applied to America as well. They try to avoid prison as much as possible, even for some charges that are considered felonies here. Their rehabilitation programs intend to maintain the criminals' contact with their families, train them for jobs, encourage them to work, or to impose penalties on them instead of imprisonment.
FOWM: Your book is a fiction. Obviously you have not talked about other countries criminal justice system, but your characters have complained about our laws.
Farin Powell: That's true. Passing harsh laws seems to be the answer here in the U.S. For example, federal laws imposing mandatory minimum sentences tie a judge's hands even if they are try to help rehabilitate a criminal. In DC, someone arrested for selling one small ziplock bag of cocaine or heroin, or even passing one to a friend at a party without getting money, may face a sentence up to 30 years in jail. In some cases we have halfway house programs or GPS monitoring instead of incarceration. But unfortunately, most defendants ordered to go through these programs are doomed to fail. For example, if you go to work and you're late getting back to half way house, even for a few minutes, you're charged with escape from prison, another criminal charge adding to the pending one you have. GPS monitor devices make noises when one goes through security. You can imagine how annoying that is for a defendant who is ordered by court to find a job. If the defendant on probation decides to take off the GPS monitor from his ankle, to take a shower, or sleep, he has violated his probation and will be summoned back in court for sanction. Failure to appear in court adds another crime, 6 months to 5 years of jail time depending on the nature of the case.
FOWM: In addition to portraying how a harsh sentence can ruin one's life, it seems to me that the novel also has a hidden message. Crime doesn't pay.
Farin Powell: Yes, unintentionally, it does. I hope that prison libraries will make this novel available to inmates. They may find similar situations that forced them to end up involved in criminal activities. One of the kidnappers in my novel was a first year medical student, but all it took was a few mistakes for his life to fall into a shambles and to end up embroiled in a path of crime.
website - http://farinpowell.com
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2010 Jan/Feb issue
Tammy Erickson, Olympic Medalist
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