For Some Lawyer-Writers, Literary and Prosecutorial Licenses Collide


Prosecutors who draw on their professional experiences to write novels and assist screenwriters can breathe a little easier after a pair of rulings issued Monday by the California Supreme Court, reports the New York Times. One decision reversed an appeals court ruling disqualifying a prosecutor who had provided filmmakers with his files in a pending case. The other reversed a similar ruling against a prosecutor who had written a novel whose plot bore similarities to a second pending case. The first case involved Jesse James Hollywood, who faces the death penalty for his role in the 2000 kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old boy.

While Hollywood was a fugitive, Ronald Zonen, a deputy district attorney in Santa Barbara, gave information and documents about him to Nick Cassavetes, a director and screenwriter. The film, “Alpha Dog,” was released last year. A unanimous appeals court said Zonen's actions were “highly inappropriate and disturbing” but did not amount to a conflict of interest likely to result in an unfair trial. The second decision also concerned a Santa Barbara prosecutor, Joyce Dudley. In 2006, while preparing for the trial of a man accused of raping an intoxicated woman, Dudley published a novel concerning the rape of an intoxicated woman. The prosecutor said the resemblance between the fictional case and the real one was coincidental.


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