Reasonable Doubt – Book Review

ReasonableDoubtBy: Steve Vogel

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks /Contemporary Books

Copyright: 1989, ISBN: [0312929080]

Reviewed By: Lynard Barnes, February 12, 2004

Summary: The murder conviction of David Hendricks in the death of his wife and three children. [12 May 2013: Visit WIKIPEDIA for an update on David Hendricks].

In January 1985, David Hendricks was convicted of the November 1983 murder of his wife and three children. They were particularly brutal murders. All four victims were apparently bludgeoned to death while they slept. In reading Steve Vogel’s account of these events in REASONABLE DOUBT, we know we have a crime but we never have a criminal.

This conundrum is the focus of Vogel’s book of course. The County State’s Attorneys Office and Bloomington police, in whose jurisdiction the crime took place, would just as obviously disagree that there is a conundrum. David Hendricks killed his family. A jury of his peers agreed.

In the epilogue, Vogel concedes that the reader has arrived at their own opinion as to the guilt or innocence of David Hendricks and, more importantly, whether Hendricks had been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In dissecting the issue into real-world consequences of action versus legal system mechanics, Vogel effectively keeps the issue of reasonable doubt front and center.

In reading REASONABLE DOUBT, the reader is served a generous helping of courtroom transcript. The lawyers and their opening statements; the lawyers and their closing statements; the expert witnesses going on and on about the validity or non-validity of determining a time of death based on how efficient the stomach digests a pizza. Unlike most true-crime reports, there is not much here about the police work that goes into gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses. There is that for sure, but, according to Vogel and reiterated by Henricks’ defense attorneys, the police work was a perfunctory procedure to bolster the circumstantial evidence the police had pointing to Henricks as the killer of his family. In short, Hendricks did it because he had the opportunity. If you read the book without knowing the eventual outcome (which Vogel provides in a “Postscript to the Paperback Edition”), you keep hoping that the police or someone comes up with something pointing to Hendricks’ guilt. Playing touchy-feely with a bunch of female models, religious belief and religious guilt just doesn’t cut it. It did for a jury however, and that is disturbing.

REASONABLE DOUBT is a book which should be read. It definitely adds an item or two to a list of factors with which to evaluate the mechanics of our legal and judicial system. One item which struck this reviewer was the relocation of the murder trial. The crime took place in Bloomington, Illinois. The trial was moved to Rockford, Illinois because the jury pool was thought to have been contaminated by publicity. It happens all the time. Justice should be blind. But should justice also be ignorant? In reading this book, you are forced to ask such questions even though they make you appear to be rather ignorant to American jurisprudence.