By Josh Kruger
As a lifer who continues to fight the system with current ongoing ap- peals, I have fifteen or more years of in court experience some of it as a pro se prisoner. But as many prisoners will tell you, the easiest place you can get cheated is by the law. Heck, most of us got robbed by our ineffective lawyers. Some of you may wind up in federal court sooner or later dealing with a habeas corpus petition. Since it is bet- ter to be prepared now, I am taking a sidetrack from my normal top- ics to help you because nothing is more important than your freedom. (FYI: I am still at the state court level and have not yet filed a federal habeas petition although, that is my next step if I lose in the state court.)
As a subscriber to the Prison Legal News since 2005, I have seen advertisements for and ordered numerous law books. Currently, there are three Habeas Corpus books being marketed to prisoners. I will review each one based on the following criteria: usability, under- standability, content and price. Some reviewers believe that the price should not be a factor when reviewing books or companies but to me that most prisoners are poor. Because of this, book prices play a large part in the prisoners’ purchasing decisions.
Based on the above factors, I rank Smith’s Guide to Habeas Corpus Relief for State Prisoners by Zachery Smith as the best for a begin- ning pro se prisoner. There are two major reasons for this endorse- ment. First, it is priced the lowest at $31.90. Second, it has numerous successful habeas forms that can easily be adapted for individual use. Also, the book has 380 pages which provides enough infor- mation for a basic understanding of Habeas Corpus law. You can order Smith’s guide for $31.90, postage paid, from the following: ROBERTS COMPANY, 5412 ELECTRONIC LANE #101, DEPT. F, HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA 92649. It is also available on Amazon.com. (CA prisoners must add $2.18 for sales tax.)
In my opinion, the second best book is Winning Habeas Corpus & Post-Conviction Relief published by Fast Law Publishing Associates. The only reason this book is not number one is because of the price and it does not include sample forms. Other than these two short- comings, this book is a virtual law library and is now updated to its fourth edition. The optimal solution would be to order both of these books and then you would have most of, if not all, the information you need to get your petition done right. You can order Winning Habeas Corpus & Post-Conviction Relief for $58.50 postage paid, from the following: FAST LAW PUBLISHING ASSOCIATES, BOX 577, UPLAND, CA 91785 (see ad below) At over 600 pages, it really is worth the price!
Lastly, my least favorite book out of the three is The Habeas Cite book: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel by Brandon Sample, pub- lished by Prison Legal News. By far, Prison Legal News is the best prison legal publication around but I am sorry to say that their book is not worth the $49.95 price tag when compared to the other two books. It is only 224 pages long and really is just as the title sug- gests, a cite book. It does include sample winning pleadings in the appendix and if it was not so highly priced, it could possibly be ranked higher. I do respect Brandon Sample, especially his work as a pro se prisoner in Freedom of Information litigation. But, for me, if you are going to $50 for a law book, then you should get more than 224 pages of case cites.
I hope these reviews help you out. I cannot tell you what to do but, I suggest you start researching your own case now by going to the law library as much as you can and reading what is available. But, if you cannot get to the law library and cannot afford a good post-conviction attorney, then I recommend the first two books mentioned above. You can both for the price of some Air Force Ones! What is more important to you? A pair of shoes or your freedom? Enough said.
Josh Kruger is the author of the upcoming book, The Millionaire Prisoner: How To Turn Prison Into A Stepping-Stone to Succe$$. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To purchase the books mentioned in the article click the links below:
The Habeas Citebook: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Winning Habeas Corpus and Post Conviction Relieve 2014 - 5th Edition
Smith's Guide to Habeas Corpus Relief