Imagine arriving home after a night out with friends to find your wife dead, stabbed 55 times, with a knife sticking out of her neck? Imagine the police so convinced you are guilty of murder they ignore evidence that doesn’t fit their narrative, and you are charged. Imagine going to trial with an inexperienced prosecutor and judge who prevents the jury from hearing key evidence. Imagine a prosecutor guilty of misconduct in the courtroom, yet allowed by the judge. Imagine a case based only on conjecture, without a shred of evidence against you, but plenty of evidence that it would have been virtually impossible for you to have murdered your wife. Imagine, despite all of this, being convicted and sent to prison.
Sounds like an implausible premise for a fictional novel, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it happened to Russ Faria when his wife Betsy was murdered in December of 2011. The case has been in the news for years, was featured on Dateline six times, a podcast aired in 2019, and a limited series based on the case airs in March of 2022.
With so much already out there about this case, do we really need a book about it? Yes, we do. One of the author’s is Joel Schwartz, Russ’s defense lawyer. It’s an insider’s look into this unbelievable case from start to finish with new revelations and previously undisclosed evidence. It details what can happen when those who are sworn to defend the rights of victims and the innocent fail to do their duty. It gives us the details of a person so evil and diabolical, someone who lies and changes their story multiple times, yet not one second was spent by investigators making sure her story checked out.
It demonstrates what happens when a defense attorney and reporter is dogged in their determination to make sure that justice prevails. It demonstrates the power of national media attention. But it also highlights the terror of what might happen to the wrongly convicted if they have no one on their side. Despite a judge and prosecutor who were seemingly determined to make sure Russ did not get a fair trial, the defense team and reporters made sure that after this sham of a trial, justice would be served. The conviction was overturned and a new trial was scheduled. But this time key evidence was disclosed. It was gratifying to read the evidence properly disclosed and the rule of law followed in court. Fortunately for Russ, he was found not guilty. Unfortunately for Russ, he spent three long years in prison for a crime he did not, and could not, have committed.
Marialyce and I found this a riveting story from beginning to end, rivaling many crime fiction books. At times, I could hardly believe what I was reading. The sheer incompetence and hubris of the judge and prosecutor was mind-boggling and if I were to read this in a fiction book, I would call it silly and implausible. Scooby-Doo would have done a better job.
This is gripping and a must read for fans of true crime and courtroom dramas. The story is told based on transcripts and audio/video recordings, with every word based on truth, not memory.
Having served on a jury for a few times, I often say that if I ever had to go before a jury I want them all to undergo an IQ test to make sure they are indeed a jury of my peers. But how do you protect yourself against an incompetent prosecutor and judge? It’s a frightening scenario that makes one wonder how many innocent people are imprisoned with no recourse open to them to prove their innocence.
Russ now spends time giving back and paying forward by working on behalf of the wrongly imprisoned via the Innocence Project: https://innocenceproject.org
Would you kill for $150,000? Could you stab your victim over fifty-five times in what seems like a fit of rage! Could a husband, a friend, or anyone do such a thing? The case of Russ Faria is one that will go down in the annals of criminal injustice. Russ was accused of brutally killing his wife, Betsy, a woman who was just diagnosed with stage four cancer. However, Russ had an ironclad reason he could not have done such a thing. Yet, the police team in Troy, Missouri, along with the prosecutor, Leah Askey (Cheney), were certain they had their man. They didn’t and fiasco of a trial ensued led by an incompetent judge. Russ was defended by Joel Schwartz, who firmly believed Russ was innocent and is one on the coauthors of this book, the other being, Charles Bosworth Jr. These two assembled a book that will make you question how this defendant couldn’t have received a fair trial.
Then there is Betsy’s best (or so she claimed) friend, Pam Huff, who seemed to possess a shield that deflected any eyes turning in her direction. She was the master deflector, claiming a plethora of injuries and an even bigger story changer that was summarily ignored by the prosecution and police.
Why was this sham and what followed allowed to happen? How could the prosecutor, the judge, and even the jury been so wrong?
This book is a true crime story and one that made me wonder, is this fiction? The utter incompetence, the disregarding of facts, the sheer hypocrisy of this trial left me breathless. Then I found myself asking why? Why would they fixate on Russ? Why would they not cast a questioning eye at Pam Huff? Why would they possibly seem to frame Russ for a crime he obviously didn’t commit?
Jan and I were beyond appalled that our criminal system could produce a prosecuting attorney and judge such as the ones assigned Russ’s trial. We were in awe of the sheer railroading of Russ and the total lack of fairness.
It was beyond frustrating as we could feel Joel Schwartz realizing that not only his hands, but also his feet were tied. He believed in Russ and fought valiantly for him. However, they had gotten their ”man” and were not going to change a thing, facts be dammed, and truths be buried.
I could say more about how this effected me and brought out so many strong emotions. There is so much to this tale, that one needs to be encouraged to read. They say truth is sometimes stranger than fiction and, in this case, truth takes a seat far back in this courtroom. You are going to ask yourself, how could this have happened and yet it did!
Bottom line is truth is stranger than fiction!
This story is soon to be a series on NBC staring Rene Zwellinger as Pam Huff.
Thank you to Charles Henry Bosworth, and Joel Schwartz, Citadel Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this tale due out February 22, 2022.