Author and former Army Judge Advocate Eugene Milhizer will give a free presentation on his book, “Dissecting Anatomy of a Murder,” on Thursday, July 29. The event begins at 2 p.m. at the Central U.P. and Northern Michigan University Archives in 126 Harden Hall at NMU. A book signing will follow.
Milhizer carefully and intelligently unravels the trial, book and movie based on one of the most famous criminal trials of the 20th century. He explores the 1952 murder in Big Bay and community attitudes about the crime. He tells the fascinating story of Anatomy of a Murder author John Voelker, who served as defense counsel for the resulting trial and then adapted the real-life courtroom drama into fictional form as a great novel. He also looks back on production of the groundbreaking film inspired by Voelker's novel, directed by Otto Preminger.
Milhizer's book considers several discrete legal and ethical issues that the novel and film raise. These include the implications of a criminal attorney “explaining the law” to a client in a manner that may “suggest” a dubious defense. It also reflects upon broader questions, such as the proper role of a jury and the impact of community standards in a criminal trial. It evaluates the capacity of the criminal justice system to achieve true justice within the context of what Voelker called the “settled procedures and ancient rules” of the law. And ultimately, it chronicles what some have called the greatest legal war story ever told.
For three years, Milhizer held a teaching appointment at the Judge Advocate General's School at the University of Virginia. In 2001, he joined the Ave Maria School of Law faculty, where his course offerings have included criminal procedure, criminal law, national security law, and military law.