The Devil’s Defender: My Odyssey Through American Criminal Justice from Ted Bundy to the Kandahar Massacre – John Henry Browne

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Does helping the devil make you a devil too? That is, while defending Ted Bundy did I somehow absorb evil?”

Many question the motives of attorneys like John Henry Browne as to why they agree to defend serial killers such as the notorious Ted Bundy. Is it for fame, money or ego; or is it really a commitment that everyone, —no matter how evil, or how atrocious the crime— deserves a fair trial? If the suspect is found not guilty or is released on bail and commits another crime, is the attorney partially to blame?

These questions come to the forefront as John Henry Browne writes about his cases as a criminal defense attorney. Some defendants have little chance of acquittal, so his aim is to persuade the court from issuing the death penalty.

Brown didn’t just defend serial killers, but also killers who were victims, themselves. Many were  abused women who had finally had enough.

How about the soldier suffering from PTSD who finally snapped after four deployments to Afghanistan? Sixteen innocent civilians, mostly women and children, were murdered. Why shouldn’t the U.S. military take some responsibility for not treating a soldier who they knew was mentally ill? He also talks about the “stacked deck” of military tribunal justice.

Though I decided to read The Devil’s Defender because of the subject of Ted Bundy, the book is actually a memoir. After treating the reader to the bait of a little Bundy, Browne goes into his early life. I must admit I almost closed the book and put it away for good during the first part. I have read so many baby boomer autobiographies and this one really wasn’t that different—except for the part about possibly dropping acid in Spiro Agnew’s cocktail. That was nice.

I’m glad I hung in there though, as Browne’s life story helped to explain why he thinks the way he does.

And yes, he got back to Bundy, and other fascinating cases, as well as attempting to go into the minds of these killers. An added bonus are more letters to him from Ted Bundy. Just as interesting though,  is that he exposes the corruption of the criminal justice system.

If you are vehemently pro-death penalty, you may not appreciate this book.  Then again, it’s worth hearing his side.  I’m on the fence on that issue.  However, I’m decidedly pro reading  The Devil’s Defender for those interested in crime thrillers… the real ones.

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