Iphigenia in Forest Hills, By Janet Malcolm
Skewed justice of the trigger happy judge and his prejudice
Early in this startling account of a murder trial, veteran New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm describes the judge as possessing "the faux-genial manner that American petty tyrants cultivate".
Known as "Hang 'em Hanophy", he is depicted as being consistently prejudiced in favour of the prosecution. At the conclusion of the trial, he ignores a request for a brief adjournment due to an impending judicial vacation. "I'm going to be on the beach sipping pina coladas," Hanophy told the defence attorney.
Another factor that skewed the trial was the deeply alien background of the protagonists, in particular Mazoltuv Borukhova, a 35-year-old doctor accused of arranging the murder of her estranged husband Daniel Malakov. Like Mikhail Mallayev, the alleged assassin, the couple were Bukharans, members of an isolated sect of orthodox Jews from Central Asia. Recently arrived in New York from Samarkand, Borukhova in court "looked like a captive barbarian princess in a Roman triumphal procession."
Malcolm's sympathies – and those of the reader – are with Borukhova, especially when we hear of her statements that Malakov sexually molested their daughter Michelle and physically abused her. These allegations did not emerge in court: "He was not on trial – she was." Only on page 59 do we discover that there had been 91 telephone calls between Borukhova and Mallayev in the three weeks preceding the murder. These were explained as "doctor-patient calls" arising from the heart condition of Mallayev's wife, but the prosecution tore the physician apart.
As Borukhova heads ineluctably for incarceration, Malcolm becomes increasingly involved with the case. She becomes a participant by revealing the unstable mental state of a child psychologist, who gave a report to the court. At times the narrative is confusing – a list of dramatis personae would be useful – but her book is a passionate, incredulous indictment of the American legal system and its brutal bureaucracy.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'