In Violation of Human Rights

In Violation of Human RightsIn Violation of Human Rights

Published May 2019

The year is 1989. Two decades have passed since the Summer of Love and the San Francisco of ’67 seems a distant memory to a group of friends facing the challenges of sustained idealism after the Reagan years. Kathleen Murray, now a criminal defense attorney in Berkeley, is passionate about the clients she defends. Among them is a young woman, trapped by mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines and facing nineteen years in prison as part of a cocaine conspiracy; her crime—accepting three phone calls from her boyfriend’s contacts. Another of her clients is threatened with sixteen years for carrying drugs for a Mexican cartel; her choice—either become the mule or watch as her mother and young daughter are tortured. An older man from Texas drives a load of marijuana to California; arrested, he learns what it means to become ill in prison. A mother and father living in Humboldt County in California are targeted for the Cannabis seedlings they are growing as medicine for their autistic son; their proposed sentence compounded by the district attorney’s ire with their political promotion of legalization for the sick.

Interwoven with the stories of Kathleen’s clients are the twenty-year adventures of the Tribe, members of the old Haight-Ashbury commune. Over the years, they have traveled from the Bay Area to counties north of San Francisco, to Mexico and Nicaragua, to the Ecuadorian rainforest and war-torn Afghanistan. The once flower children are now experienced adults balancing families with sustainable businesses, higher education, and new political policies.

At its heart, In Violation of Human Rights speaks to the tragedy that has become the American criminal justice system–the young trapped in juvenile detention, men and women buried behind walls for non-violent offences, the lack of compassion for the aging and the sick, the for-profit prison system reaping billions from human misery. More, this is a story that explores the courage and desperate efforts of those who work to promote true justice.

In Violation of Human Rights picks up the Haight-Ashbury communards of Pamela Johnson’s epic trilogy, A Nation of Mystics, and plops them, twenty years later, in the meat grinder of the War on Drugs. Equal parts legal thriller, social history and probing personal portraits, In Violation of Human Rights captures the inevitable destinations of Sixties idealism — a sweeping, heartbreaking story that is at once timely and timeless.  

— Joel Selvin, author Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day