Jeanne Winer spent 35 years as a criminal defense attorney in Colorado before retiring in Boulder to write full-time. Her second novel, “Her Kind of Case,“ will be published on August 15th by Bancroft Press. Jeanne will appear at the Boulder Book Store on August 23, 2018 at 7:30 pm for a book signing.
“Her Kind of Case” is a legal drama that centers on Lee Isaacs, a female defense attorney on the cusp of turning 60, who, out of curiosity, determination, and desire for a big, even impossible, professional challenge, chooses to take on a tough murder case in which a largely uncooperative young man is accused of helping kill a gay gang member. This beautifully written novel is built around not only a gradually resolving mystery, but by fully fleshed-out characters, particularly the strong-willed and sharp-witted Lee. It is a breath of fresh air to see someone of Lee’s standing achieve career and personal success as an older single woman who grieves the recent loss of her husband, but continues her daily routine of law and karate, fighting tooth and nail to prove her client not guilty.
Q. What inspired you to write this book?
A. I was a criminal defense attorney for thirty-five years and wanted to describe what it feels like to take a high profile murder case where the evidence, at least initially, seems insurmountable and then persevere until you get the best result possible. How much work is involved, how much strategic thinking. Most books about lawyers don’t describe the emotional toll it takes to defend someone whose life is in your hands. And the books aren’t funny, even though criminal defense attorneys have an extremely well-developed, black sense of humor; without it, they’d burn out in three or four years. When I was much younger than Lee, I represented a teenage boy accused of helping a group of skinheads kick a man to death. I didn’t end up trying the case like Lee, but I did my best for him and kept him out of adult prison, which was a great result. I think I saved his life.
Q. Do you see yourself in any of the characters?
A. Of course, but I have more friends than Lee.
Q. Can you discuss how your experience as a criminal defense lawyer influenced the novel?
A. Because I know what it takes to successfully defend someone, I gave Lee many of the same skills that I had. I wanted the book to be realistic and borrowed heavily from my own experiences. For instance, the scene in which Lee accidentally spills water all over her colleague’s legal research during a critical motions hearing actually happened to me. After a thousand or so of these mortifying incidents, a criminal defense lawyer grows a thick skin and becomes adept at dealing with all the surprises that inevitably occur during a trial. Lee is a veteran trial lawyer; she’s paid her dues; she is very quick on her feet.
Q. Tae Kwon Do is a large part of Lee’s life and powerful personality. What inspired you to have your main character be so active in this form of martial arts?
A. Tae Kwon Do was the great love of my life and I wanted to write about it. I practiced almost every day except when I was injured, which happened regularly because I loved to spar and didn’t care if my opponents were ten inches taller and outweighed me by sixty pounds. After forty years, my body asked me to please switch over to something gentler. So these days, I’m studying Tai Chi. But when I was lawyering and practicing karate, they felt so complementary, each one teaching me how to be better at the other. The qualities that make Lee a great martial artist—her speed, skill, experience, courage, and creativity—are, in my opinion, the same qualities that make her an outstanding attorney.