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Success Story: Morris S. Zedeck

For many years, forensic pharmacologist Morris S. Zedeck kept notes for a memoir of his experience as an expert witness in the justice system. When he decided to turn the notes into a book, he called it Expert Witness in the Legal System: A Scientist’s Search for Justice.

Morris had unusual credentials for writing such a book. A Ph.D. in pharmacology, he is married to Ellen Lieberman, a lawyer, so he is comfortable in the legal milieu. He came to study the ways that scientific evidence was used — and abused — in the civil and criminal courts and emerged with a nuanced sense of what can be done to remedy some of the injustice that is taking place all around us. That’s what his book addressed, along with a brief history of some forensic sciences at the end of the twentieth century.

He elected to self-publish his book so that he could finish it, publish it and move on. His friend Bill Bernhardt, an English professor, suggested that Morris get in touch with Ellen E. M. Roberts at Where Books Begin for a thorough review of the book before it was published. Ellen, a fan of CSI, adored the book because it went into depth where the TV shows simply skimmed the surface. She and Morris set about working to make the book conceptually clear, consistent, continuous and charming. They gave themselves three months for the task.

This book is unusual in its convergence of topic and author. Morris’ background as a teacher gave him a tremendous edge in presenting scientific information as part of his story. He had been explaining complicated science to judges, juries, attorneys and the media, most of whom are hopeless when it comes to science. Writing for the lay reader came naturally to him. He had the added advantage of being married to a smart lawyer, so he could show the legal side of scientific evidence in a dinner conversation style that was absorbing and interesting.

The introduction of special DNA analysis in the 1980s, the public’s embrace of it and the unexpected consequences of its success as an evidence tool, particularly for exonerating wrongfully convicted persons, all make his saga especially fascinating. The role of other scientific disciplines such as analysis of fingerprints, bullets, documents and drugs are also discussed.

However, this introduced a problem in editing because the role of DNA analysis as well as of other forensic sciences in the justice system was changing weekly. It was hard to know when to stop researching and get down to the final writing. For Ellen, who had shepherded more than a thousand books to publication, that decision was easy: She advised Morris to set a deadline for himself. After that date, no changes. Each time the book was reprinted he could update it. When the changes added up to 15% of the total text, he could issue a Revised Edition of the original book.

To enhance the presence of Morris S. Zedeck, Expert Witness, Ellen urged Morris to state his individual experiences and, even idiosyncratic, assessments of the judicial system to keep the reader engaged in his unique presentation of the facts. The personal voice does much to make the author’s positions memorable.

Today the book is available at RoseDog Books and at Amazon.

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