Jurors the focus of Miami-set debut ‘With Prejudice’ – Sun Sentinel

‘With Prejudice’ by Robin Peguero. Grand Central, 320 pages, $ 28

Robin Peguero invigorates the legal thriller by taking a different spin in his debut novel “With Prejudice.” While Peguero doesn’t neglect vital courtroom scenes, the jurors are the real focus of “With Prejudice.”

Peguero, a former homicide prosecutor in Miami, looks at the jurors’ backgrounds, how their biases and opinions were formed by their life experiences, and what brought each to the trial of Gabriel Soto, accused of murdering popular Melina Mora.

Each juror’s personal history shades their verdict – no matter the evidence. Such as the young Black man whose pride in his car is shattered when a cop defaces his automobile. A physician who left her abusive husband but has to face the reality that her son is even worse to his wife. A man who becomes obsessive over his lawn, alienating his neighborhood.

Ambitious Miami native Sandy Grunwald is tasked with making sure the forensic evidence holds up as she prosecutes Soto. While the woman’s body has never been found, Mora’s hair was found inside Soto’s house in Homestead, and the two were seen arguing at a Miami bar the night she disappeared. While Sandy is a novice prosecutor, her temperament and insight are her secret weapons, although her assertive style can be irritating. She tries to keep her affair with reporter Domenico Santos quiet, for fear it will affect her career. They both know that “nothing is more important to her than her ambition – no one, either,” and they try to work within those boundaries.

“With Prejudice” shows a legal system that is messy because people are messy, yet it works – sometimes – despite the chaos. A journey through Miami’s neighborhoods and myriad ethnic backgrounds elevates the plot.

Peguero no doubt pulls on his own background as a press spokesman in the US House, a speechwriter in the US Senate and his current position as a US House investigative counsel working on domestic terrorism to give an insider’s view of the law.

Robin Peguero will discuss “With Prejudice” during an in-person event at 7:30 pm May 20 at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 305-442-4408, booksandbooks.com/events. The event is free but reservations needed.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

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