Boston lawyer turned Court TV star looks at her life in 'the big leagues'

Issue May 2003 By Chad Konecky

Rikki Klieman lived hard in her prime. Diamond Jim Brady hard. Hemingway hard. Heck, she lived Joan of Arc hard.

About the book …
Title: "Fairy Tales Can Come True - How a Driven Woman Changed Her Destiny"

Author: Rikki Klieman

Description: This book chronicles Rikki Klieman's early days, as one of the most sought-after defense attorneys in Boston through to her current experience on Court TV. She shares how her midlife love affair with former Boston and New York City Police Commissioner and current Los Angeles Chief of Police Bill Bratton taught her that in order to achieve happiness and harmony she had to put her personal life first.

Publisher: Regan Books

Released: May 2003

Still, one can't help thinking her new autobiography chronicling a quarter century in the legal profession, much of it in Boston - "Fairy Tales Can Come True," due for May 6 release - is the product of years of folks telling Klieman she should write a book.

A sprawling tome, Klieman's book offers plenty of juicy insight into a made-for-TV era of the nation's legal scene. Just not enough.

Riveting passages about landmark cases she counseled, especially her role in the infamous "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" case, are clotted by overly tangential waxing about multiple partners, business and bedroom, her mother's health, her aching back and a pair of divorces.

The angst deserves some slack. This is, after all, an autobiography. But the delivery doesn't make consistent contact.

Klieman deconstructed, hit-and-miss presentation notwithstanding, represents a fascinating figure in her field. Which makes the book a worthwhile read, if ponderous in stretches.

More than anything else, her intestinal fortitude and creativity shine through. And they do so between the lines, not via narcissistic meandering. Klieman paid dearly for the physical and emotional tolls of the fast track in a male-dominated discipline. But she weathered them.

It is courage, more than anything else - chutzpah that prompted political consultant James Carville to admiringly opine "Rikki Klieman has played in the big leagues and survived to tell the tale" - that pervades the pages.

Klieman remains of counsel to the Boston firm of Klieman, Lyons, Schindler and Gross, where she specializes in criminal trial and appellate practice as well as civil litigation.

In 1983, Klieman, already a nationally sought-after keynote speaker renowned for burning the candle at both ends, was named one of the five most outstanding women trial lawyers in the country by Time magazine.

As a result of defending David and Ginger Twitchell, Christian Science parents charged with manslaughter for the death of their child because they sought spiritual healing instead of medical care, Klieman garnered unprecedented media face time.

Representing Katherine Ann Power - a '60s radical, a bank-robbery fugitive of 23 years and subject of the largest FBI womanhunt in history - earned her a mainstream following.

Klieman became an internationally recognized face of pop culture as a Court TV commentator covering the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-'90s. She later became a Court TV anchor.

Still a member of the adjunct faculty at Columbia Law School, Klieman was a professor at Boston University's School of Law, where she taught trial practice for many years. She has published articles on criminal defense practice and contributed to a book, "Women Trial Lawyers," published by Prentice Hall in 1987 as well as a book on drug law published in 1993.

Klieman is featured in a chapter of "Good Will Toward Men" by Jack Kammer, published in 1994, and in the national best seller "A Civil Action" by Jonathan Harr.

Klieman also served on the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Supreme Court on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The most useful chapters of "Fairy Tales" involve her casework and revolutionary defense tactics. Her insight into the Jim Williams case in Georgia, the inspiration for the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and later a movie by the same name, is captivating. Williams was tried four times (and convicted three times) for the murder of Danny Hansford.

Klieman's marriage to former Boston and New York City Police Commissioner and current Los Angeles Chief of Police, Bill Bratton is billed as the "fairy tale." Again, an allowable autobiographical indulgence, but one that marginalizes the book's value as a tell-all text in the context of the law.