Photo: J. Cheney Mason taken by J. Wilder Bill
Justice in America by J. Cheney Mason, serves a purpose. The criminal defense attorney received media attention for his representing a woman accused of the causing the death of her child. With an authoritarian voice of the diminishing breed of cowboys, Mason is candid about his motivations behind his legal strategies and shares the humanitarian aspect of criminal defense.
J. Wilder Bill: Is the theme for American citizens to reaffirm their rights to an unbiased justice system difficult to establish?
J. Cheney Mason: No, because anything other than an unbiased justice system is an oxymoron. If the system is unfair to the defense, then it can’t be fair for the prosecutor. The system is only fair when it is mutually appropriate.
You can’t say it is fair to the prosecutor and not the defense. With justice today, and even historically, indeed, there must be fairness.
What America had in the Casey Anthony case was no concept of fairness. The news media had a concept of fairness to create sensationalism with any specious information they wanted.
J. Wilder Bill: A common concern for writers is how to refer to people without violating protections. What is the rule you followed?
J. Cheney Mason: Truth is truth. You can say anything that is truth.
There are various privileges. Matters relating to court are a privilege. You can say anything filed in court and stated in court. The only caveat is a rule of ethics that you don’t make false representations. You must have a good faith basis to ask a question. It can be inflammatory. If you were in good faith for asking, then it is permissible.
I illustrate it with Strickland, Ashton, and Perry. What I mention in the book was backed with evidence. I believed what I wrote and acted with a good faith reason. When I mentioned persons, I just disputed facts of evidence.
J. Wilder Bill: What writing styles that you crafted as a trial attorney preparing pleadings did you carrying over into your book?
J. Cheney Mason: I do it one way. I don’t do flowery unnecessary verbosity.
I dictated the book over a three week period in the billiard room or by the pool. A lot of people backed me up. I took the different topics based on questions propounded all the time.
I don’t have the experience of different types of writing skills. I only know one, tell it like it is.
I am notorious for that in the Bar. The mediators ask the lawyers to tell about the case in confidential letters. I tell the facts as what they are and it helps resolve cases.
I had no training on how to write a book. I didn’t attempt to make it a novel or fictitious. I wanted it to be accurate and reliable to tell the truth. That is why I put documents in the book. Instead of criticizing, I copied the letters telling about it.
I didn’t write the book to make a profit. I had a book signing party without books to sell. I just wanted to celebrate publishing my book with friends.
J. Wilder Bill: Your cliffhangers prevented me from putting down your book. What is your technique for concluding chapters with poignant resolutions?
J. Cheney Mason: I don’t do it consciously. I’m not that clever. I had subjects to explore. I wanted to be as informative as I could.
The outline for this book didn’t exist. I had trial notes and documents spread out on pool table. I did organization on how it should be. I planned it chronologically on subject matters for each chapter. Then, I’d stare at the deer in my backyard eating berries and explore an area. When I told all there was to tell about that subject matter, I went to the next topic.
I’m not claiming credit for writing skills if there is one. I set out with the idea, I’m going to tell the story, tell what I believe on the aspects of the whole story, and then there it is.
J. Wilder Bill: You were approached numerous times to write your perspective of the Casey Anthony trial. Was your intended audience to teach rising trial attorneys how to master their skills?
J. Cheney Mason: No. I wanted to tell the story.
A fellow who had been a client of a group of lawyers I was with many years ago approached me. He had been in the cadre who protested at the Anthony’s residence. He had become a converted believer in her evidence, so he said. He told me he stopped protesting. Then, he asked to be released, and I let him. He self-published a book of his own that was flagrantly false, and then he died.
I read the self-published book by Baez and found misstatements. I was appalled by it. I felt it was time for the truth to be told about the case and I decided to do it.
J. Wilder Bill: Your nonfiction narrative at times caused me to tear. How do you invoke emotion when stating the facts?
I told the truth.
J. Wilder Bill: Did you want the truth to be told about Casey Anthony or about the justice system?
J. Cheney Mason: Yes and yes. America needs the media. We want what’s happening in the courtrooms to be reported. We need to know. But the reporters need to remain impartial. Their job isn’t to determine who is guilty and print who should be convicted.
Today, reporters don’t go into the courtrooms to report the facts. The prosecutors write up what they want the reporters to say. The documents are printed and waiting for the journalists to pick up at the clerk’s desk. They do what the prosecutors want. The journalists don’t have to listen in or do anything. It’s all written up for them.
It’s not that we don’t want reporters. We need them to promote justice.
J. Wilder Bill: Mr. Mason, I appreciate your time in sharing your thoughts.
In Justice in America, J. Cheney Mason leaves speculation to the journalists and pinpoints the facts with a noteworthy theme. True to his voice of a cowboy fighting for justice, his office has a Southwestern decor.