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Book Review: Long Way Home

Terri Schichenmeyer | 1/26/2011, 5 p.m.

You've seen some pretty amazing things in your life.

In your travels around the world or around the block, there's always something to view. People with unusual attributes. Buildings going up, down, or staying in the same place for centuries.

Nature in all its glory. You've seen birth and death, highs and lows, and some things you wish you'd never seen.

And that's where Jovan Mosley was after the police picked him up: wishing he'd never been witness to a murder. In the new book "Long Way Home" (c.2010, Free Press, $26.00 / $29.99 Canada, 303 pages, includes notes) by Laura Caldwell, what Mosley saw cost him almost a quarter of his life.

On the night that Henry Thomas, Jr., lost his life, things were going well for him.

Thomas was well-liked in his job, and was making enough money to buy a decent house for himself and his longtime girlfriend. His family was doing fine, and he was looking forward to seeing his grandchildren soon. His wallet had a few dollars in it that night, so he grabbed some chicken at a local Chicago restaurant and started home.

He never made it.

Earlier that night, Frad Muhammad asked his boy, Jovan Mosley, if he wanted to hang out. They briefly visited a park, found nothing of interest, and were joined by three other boys. When one of them suggested they rob someone, Thomas was the first person they saw.

The beating death of Henry Thomas, Jr., went unsolved for several months, until a break in the case came. Police arrested Muhammad, Marvin Treadwell, and Lawrence "Red" Wideman.

Witnesses said a boy named "Fetta" was at the scene, as was a boy named Jovan Mosley, but Mosley didn't do anything except walk away.

They arrested Mosley anyway.

For almost two days, the 19-year-old was kept handcuffed to a wall. Given no food or water, he wasn't allowed to use the bathroom. Detectives wandered in and out, yelling and threatening.

Finally, told that he could "go home" if he confessed to two punches, Mosley signed his name to a piece of paper.

Five years later, attorney Catherine O'Daniel had a chance meeting with Mosley in SuperMax, the Cook County jail. Impressed and astounded that he'd been in jail for so long with so little legal help, O'Daniel agreed to do something she'd never done: she took his case, pro bono.

And that's where author, lawyer, and novelist Laura Caldwell came in: to help O'Daniel and, in the process, immerse herself into this horrifying case.

With a writer's knack for words and an attorney's eye for detail, Caldwell brings Mosley's story to light with the kind of suspense that will keep you up all night. As a co-lawyer, Caldwell was obviously sympathetic to Mosley, and she makes you care, too. I loved that about this book, and I loved the "afterward" hints that Caldwell gives without spoiling the proceedings.

If you love a good courtroom drama, try this gripping true story. "Long Way Home" is definitely a book to see yourself reading soon.