Wednesday, March 25, 2009

From Russia - The Anna Politkovskaya Trial

An article in the March 23, 2009 New Yorker reports on the trial of the accused murderers of Anna Politkovskaya. The article, by Keith Gessen, is here.

The structure of Gessen's article is very interesting, in this way: the main point he's making (I think) is that the Russians have made significant progress in opening up their criminal justice system (and giving all involved the right to be heard).

But Gessen does not comes right out and make this point until the very end of the piece -- after describing and explaining, in tremendous detail, the various people involved in the trial and the nature of the allegations against the accused.

The thematic punchline comes in the form of a quote by attorney Karinna Moskalenko, who was the "attorney for the victims" in the trial. Moskalenko tells Gessen, after the trial's conclusion (and notwithstanding the acquittals of all the accused):
'I've dreamed my whole life as a lawyer of a trial like this ... the openness to the press, the adversarial process, before a jury, a judge who lets the sides express their opinions.'
One of the most interesting people in the story is 26-year old Dzhabrail Makhmudov, one of three Chechen brothers alleged to have been involved in Politkovskaya's murder. Gessen reports that almost everyone in the courtroom was won over by Makhmudov's sincerity and likeability -- it sounds like his testimony ultimately ruined the prosecution's chances of a conviction.

149. Is there any movement among the American criminal justice bar for an "attorney for the victims" role in criminal trials? This is a very interesting structure which makes the trial a three-ways affair and seems to provide more of a voice to the victims (rather than simply relying on the prosecutor to represent their interests).

150. Do writers of "long form" news articles often save the punchline for the very end? I do not remember coming across this structure very much but maybe it's a technique that the New Yorker likes because it requires more of an investment, by the reader, to really get the writer's point.

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