Judges Who Write: Gordon Martin and Michael Ponsor

Join two Massachusetts judges who are writers as well, one with a memoir of his work in the civil rights movement and one with a legal thriller.


 

The personal account of a community and a lawyer united to battle one of the most recalcitrant bastions of resistance to civil rights.

In 1961, Forrest County, Mississippi, became a focal point of the civil rights movement when the United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit against its voting registrar Theron Lynd. While 30 percent of the county's residents were black, only twelve African Americans were on its voting rolls. United States v. Lynd was the first trial that resulted in the conviction of a southern registrar for contempt of court. The case served as a model for other challenges to voter discrimination in the South and was an important influence in shaping the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Count Them One by One is a comprehensive account of the groundbreaking case written by one of the Justice Department's trial attorneys. Gordon A. Martin, Jr., then a newly minted lawyer, traveled to Hattiesburg from Washington to help shape the federal case against Lynd. He met with and prepared the government's sixteen courageous black witnesses who had been refused registration, found white witnesses, and was one of the lawyers during the trial.

Decades later, Martin returned to Mississippi to find these brave men and women he had never forgotten. He interviewed the still-living witnesseses, their children, and friends. Martin intertwines these current reflections with vivid commentary about the case itself. The result is an impassioned, cogent fusion of reportage, oral history, and memoir about a trial that fundamentally reshaped liberty and the South.

Gordon A. Martin, Jr., Boston, Massachusetts, is a retired trial judge and an adjunct professor at New England School of Law. His work has been published in the Boston Globe, Commonweal, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, various law reviews, and other periodicals.


When a drive-by shooting in Holyoke, Massachusetts, claims the lives of a Puerto Rican drug dealer and a hockey mom volunteering at an inner-city clinic, the police arrest a rival gang member. With no death penalty in Massachusetts, the US attorney shifts the double homicide out of state jurisdiction into federal court so he can seek a death sentence.

The Honorable David S. Norcross, a federal judge with only two years on the bench, now presides over the first death penalty case in the state in decades. He must referee the clash of an ambitious female prosecutor and a brilliant veteran defense attorney in a high-stress environment of community outrage, media pressure, vengeful gang members, and a romantic entanglement that threatens to capsize his trial—not to mention the most dangerous force of all: the unexpected. 

Michael Ponsor graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School.  In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed him a life-tenured US district judge. From 2000 to 2001, he presided over a five-month death penalty trial, the first in Massachusetts in over fifty years. Judge Ponsor continues to serve as a senior US district judge in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Western Division. The Hanging Judge is his first novel.

Event date: 
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Porter Square Shopping Center
25 White Street
02140 Cambridge
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Count Them One by One: Black Mississippians Fighting for the Right to Vote Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781628460490
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University Press of Mississippi - April 8th, 2014

The Hanging Judge Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781480441941
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Open Road Media E-Riginal - December 3rd, 2013