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Law Man by Shon Hopwood: Book Review


Just finished reading the true story of Shon Hopwood’s journey from bank robber to law student. Very good read. 

As a young man, Shon is a college dropout, disillusioned by his failure at college basketball, bored and generally lacking motivation and direction. This leads him to rob 5 banks in rural Nebraska between 1997 and 1998. His amateur (but armed) robberies ultimately end with his arrest and earn him a 13-year sentence in a federal prison.

Shon’s prison stories are engaging: he matures while behind bars, grows from a stoner to a peacekeeper (but knowing that when tested you cannot show weakness), and his book provides a fascinating first-hand glimpse into the racism and mental illness that permeates the prison system.   

While in prison, Shon begins working at the law library. He reads legal books, and begins writing briefs for his fellow inmates, to help reduce their sentences. He develops a love – and a talent – for criminal procedure. The Supreme Court agrees to hear his petition for certiorari and with help from an outside lawyers he wins the case.  

Shon's story is engaging, even if written in a somewhat self-conscious manner. At times it feels like a PG-13 version of an otherwise gritty tale, as if he’s writing knowing that his mom is reading. But I guess she is reading, and part of his reason for writing the book is to apologize to his family and friends for causing them pain and to thank the people in his small town who stood by him.

Anyway, after serving his more than a decade-long sentence, Shon is released into the arms of fiancée Ann Marie. They have a couple kids, he applies to law school, receives a full scholarship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and today is a law student at the University of Washington School of Law, set to graduate in 2014.

Shon seems passionate about criminal law – and it looks like he has a great career as a criminal lawyer ahead of him.  I just hope that the law society he applies to will admit him when he graduates. Law societies have rejected candidates for way less than a criminal record as a bank robber. Then again, Shon has clearly proven that he’s a reformed man. 

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