Trial & Error by Arthur W. Campbell

Trial & Error
The Education of a Freedom Lawyer
Volume One: For the Defense

by Arthur W. Campbell

Published by Poetic Matrix Press
118 pages, Price $16.50
ISBN 978-0-9789597-4-6

The Book

"Art Campbell provides us with brilliant flashes of insight into the mysterious workings of the legal system. His prose poems are heart-wrenching, powerful, compelling. As an insider, Campbell is in a unique position to provide vivid glimpses at the colorful characters on both sides of the law. His prose poems are full of compassion and a generosity of spirit. In sharing with us his ‘tales from the trenches,' he reveals the heart and soul of a young trial lawyer."
— Nancy Kim, lawyer and author of critically acclaimed novel, Chimhominey's Secret.

Nominated for the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards 2007

Proceeds from the sale of Trial & Error will be donated to the Innocence Project at California Western School of Law San Diego, California.


Read reviews by Pat Browne, Christopher N. Green and Thomas Larson on

Law Student Reviews of Trial & Error

  • "The book is amazing! It definitely was a page turner... The book showed the realities of being a lawyer and the effects it can have on your life, physically and emotionally... It was great and an eye-opener into the complicated world of criminal law...I can't wait for a sequel!"
  • "Trial & Error has re-ignited my passion for law... Every story taught me something about criminal law. I would recommend this book to anyone considering or enrolled in law school. The book is an exceptional account of the battles won and lost in the world of freedom lawyering and the pursuit of justice."
  • "Trial & Error is very insightful not only to criminal law but to the world of legal practice and life. Each case captured an important lesson of being an attorney... The book is an interesting, honest insight into the criminal law that I've never experienced before... It has given me a much more realistic idea of what the field of criminal law is out in the real world.
    "The book provides comical relief and hope for someone with the aspiration of one day achieving success as a trial lawyer... From the moment I picked up this book I was immediately rejuvenated."
  • "Trial & Error has shown me that rapport with clients and people in general makes an outstanding lawyer... It also highlights mistakes made by the budding defense attorney and what was learned from them... I too struggle with public speaking and eloquence. Reading of the author's struggle inspired me...The cases exemplify what is essential to becoming a successful trial lawyer."
  • "After reading Trial & Error my perspective on defense attorneys has completely changed...The book is truly inspiring and a big eye-opener... The entire book was a learning experience... The cases all seemed to cover different moral dilemmas... I am more inclined to become an attorney, so that I can fight injustices such as these."

From Trial & Error:

The Weird Case

In law the right answer usually depends on putting the right question.
— Felix Frankfurter

What can you do with an unlawful pistol-discharge case when your client is a marshal who confessed he'd shot his gun for kicks? In this case the clue to stay alert was signaled by my client's name: Warren B. Weird.

At 4 a.m. two cruiser cops heard a gunshot, saw a speeding car, and chased Weird through a "high-crime area," cop code for most of Washington, D.C. When they stopped and questioned him he candidly replied he fired at a wall for fun. They seized him and his smoking gun.

With a potential jail sentence of one year, the accusation seemed an easy prosecution win, given gunshots, pistol, and a full confession on the spot.

"It was a stupid thing to do, Mr. Campbell, but it was dark, and no one was around. I shot inside a vacant lot. I'd been to a party and just learned my pregnant sister's going to give her kid my name."

Warren, handsome, slim, well dressed was twenty-nine, living with his wife and two sons in a deeply mortgaged home. His prior Air Force record was exemplary, as were evals as a deputy U.S. Marshal. If found guilty Weird would lose his job; any jail time would doom his house and wreck his family.

How could I fulfill my oath to "render vigorous defense" against a slam-dunk prosecution case? Even swapping Warren's guilty plea for probation would cost his job, a prosecution offer he refused to buy.

(Find out how this and many other cases turned out in this unique look at the law through the eyes of a young lawyer deeply concerned with freedom, justice and how to put it down with the voice of a poet.)

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