Almost Innocent

From Searching to Saved in America’s Criminal Justice System

From practicing attorney and criminal justice advocate Shanti Brien comes an insider’s account of the messy, tragic, and often unjust legal system in America.

From defunding the police to the college admission scandal, from the national rise in crime to seditious mobs escaping prosecution, criminal justice is one of the most urgent issues of our time. Part memoir, part political commentary, Almost Innocent details the stories of nine legal cases and goes behind the headlines to break down the dichotomies our country grapples with—us versus them, good versus bad, guilt versus innocence, Black versus White—and challenges us to explore the humanity in between.

Weaving stories of the obviously guilty to the surprisingly innocent, Almost Innocent is a love letter to the author’s clients. Though their profiles are as individual as their sentences—the teenage gang member whose gun never fired, the victim of the world’s most vindictive HOA, the soft-spoken three-strikes rapist, and the get-away driver—all touched Shanti Brien’s life in surprising ways. They saved her from stupid mistakes, strengthened her football-ravaged marriage, and taught her about humility, redemption, and humanity.

Almost Innocent is an intimate portrait of the criminal justice system, offering suggestions for what it could be: more fair, more humane, and more just.

ISBN: 978-1-64543-203-6
SKU: 08-643-01
Categories:Amplify Publishing, Memoirs and Biographies, Memoirs and Biographies, Politics and Current Affairs, Politics and Current Affairs

“Shanti Brien asks the two urgent questions of our time: is anyone entirely innocent, and why is it so easy for us to draw lines between us and them? Almost Innocent is a deft but humble investigation into who is worthy of compassion and where justice may have lost its way.”—Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place, Glitter and Glue, and Tell Me More

“Shanti Brien takes us on a fast-paced look at the strange and often infuriating criminal justice system where guilt or innocence doesn’t seem to matter. While reading the fascinating details of her ripped-from-the-headlines cases, I realized the rare importance of the lessons she shares about the unfairness of the legal system. I was also surprised to find myself so absorbed in the fantastic story of a young lawyer finding herself in the legal system that I devoured Almost Innocent in three sittings.”—David Meerman Scott, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Fanocracy

“Powered by a poignant mixture of insight, intellect, and honesty, Shanti Brien takes us on an illuminating journey through the American criminal justice system, opening our minds and tugging at our heartstrings along the way. Expertly written and refreshingly confessional, Almost Innocent reveals the dark underbelly of our institutional approach to law and order, exposing a system in which guilt and innocence are often overshadowed by other forces. Amid the tragedy and the futility, Brien gives us glimpses of grace and hope that sustain our faith in humanity while making a strong case for pronounced change. And as her professional area of expertise coalesces with her personal life, Brien’s vulnerability and self-reflection—and, ultimately, her fighting spirit—take our breath away.”—Michael Silver, acclaimed sportswriter, NFL analyst, and author of Golden Girl: How Natalie Coughlin Fought Back, Challenged Conventional Wisdom, and Became America’s Olympic Champion

“Shanti Brien’s Almost Innocent is a beautifully written memoir that shines a brilliant and authentic light on the lives of the accused and those who fight for them.”—Julie Barton, New York Times bestselling author of Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself

Almost Innocent is more than just an important book that will open your eyes to the justice system—it’s a page-turner! Brien shines a very particular light on the very real struggles of marriage, motherhood, work-life balance, and purpose. Through deft weaving, we come to love and understand the couple at the heart of this legal drama, while gaining deep appreciation for the dozen characters—vivid, real, and often tragic—whose stories will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Rarely does such timely and meaningful nonfiction come in such an engaging, readable package.”—Kimberly Ford, Ph.D., author of the bestselling Hump: True Tales of Sex After Kids

Shanti Brien

Attorney and Criminal Justice Reform Advocate

Shanti Brien has a Bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley and a JD from Stanford Law School. She is an accomplished criminal defense attorney, with a specialty in appeals and post-conviction proceedings. She is co-Founder of Fogbreak Justice, an education and consulting company with the mission to transform the criminal justice system through experiences that reduce bias, promote fairness, build community trust, and create equity. Shanti writes about criminal justice and other social justice issues on Medium @shantibrightbrien. She co-authored June Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint (Routledge, 1995); and contributed to The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law Firms (American Bar Association, 2011) and Lose the Cape: The Mom’s Guide to Becoming Socially and Politically Engaged (Kat Biggie Press, 2018). She lives in the East Bay with her husband and three kids.