Skip to main content

Want True Crime Anecdotes from a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Are you interested in true crime series, whether in books, TV series and podcasts? A s a reader, what kind of questions would you ask Lisbeth? As a writer, do you have technical questions for a criminal defense attorney?

True crime is a fascinating genre.

Besides being good stories to get lost in and mysteries to solve, there’s that added element of realism. True crime series and books are depictions of real events, and the exploration of the macabre and Machiavellian twists of a criminal’s mind tends to fascinate us. We want to know the who, what, where, when, and most importantly, the why of a crime. At a subconscious level, true crime arms us with the knowledge of how to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Today on Daily (w)rite we have Lisbeth L. McCarty who has worked for 41 years as an appellate criminal defense attorney. She has represented and met murderers, including several who were on death row. You can find her newsletter here.

Take it away, Lisbeth!

 “Please get me off of death row,” convicted murderer Gary Alan Walker said. Then, he added, “But don’t get me out of prison, because if you did, I might kill you, you, or you.” As he said each ‘you,’ he pointed first at one of the two female interns who were with us, then at the other female intern, then at me.

The two interns’ faces turned white. Walker’s words did not phase me at all. As an appellate defense attorney, I had already sat across from enough murderers to hear all kinds of wild stories, outrageous statements, and occasional threats.

Although I am an attorney, I was not Walker’s attorney. His attorney was one of my colleagues, and when our interns wanted have the experience of visiting a prison, we took them. Walker was executed on January 13, 2000.

I have always been interested in true crime and writing. My 41-year career as an appellate defense counsel was perfect for me. My job was to obtain transcripts and other evidence from trials. I read through and examined the material, then wrote an appellate brief on my client’s behalf.

In examining what had led to my client’s conviction, I was looking for whether the trial judge, the prosecutor, defense counsel, any witnesses, the jury, or even the bailiff had done something wrong. Then, I presented this information to the appellate court. Thus, I was also getting paid to judge other people’s work.

 Of course, any appellate criminal defense attorney wins more than loses because most of the time, everything passes muster at a trial or hearing. I was successful in getting two of my clients off death row. One client had his sentence modified to life, the other was a Native American who killed on Native American land, so his case was sent to the federal courts. The federal courts have not tried him, but are holding him in a federal mental hospital due to his well-documented insanity.

I also was once able to successfully get a Writ of Prohibition issued after a trial judge ordered me to handle a certain case. The case did not fall under the proper jurisdiction for our agency to handle it. You can read the case here.

My true crime book Mental States of Murderesses includes one woman murderer from each of the 50 United States.

The purpose of writing this book was to examine the mental states of these women. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but I have worked with them throughout my legal career. Sometimes, a deep look at a woman’s background says all.

One woman that fascinated me was Cordelia Botkin, who was convicted of murder, but then had periods of time without incarceration.

I wrote:

A few months after the trial, Judge Cook was walking down the street in downtown San Francisco when he was shocked to see Cordelia out shopping. The judge ordered that an investigation be launched. The result of the investigation was that Cordelia had manipulated a system whereby she would engage in sexual conduct with the jail personnel in exchange for the freedom of occasionally being temporarily set free.

I used certain criteria for choosing the women to appear as a case study in the book. First, I attempted to find cases which did not involved the killing of children. Murder is still murder, no matter what the age of the victim, but I did my best to avoid these cases. This was not always possible.

 I also searched for cases where the facts actually reflected that a murder had occurred. Not every killing is a murder, but I wanted to use cases that showed premeditation on the woman’s part.

Finally, I wanted the case to be old enough that there were no close-in-time secondary victims, i.e., those who love the victim and may be hurt by my book. I unfortunately became a secondary victim of murder myself when my beloved niece Lauren (who was five months pregnant with a baby girl already named Avery) was murdered. I testified at the murderer’s sentencing hearing after he pled guilty, and the judge imposed two sentences of life without parole.

 Many people, including some of my lawyer friends, questioned how I could continue to work as an appellate criminal defense attorney after I became a secondary victim. The answer was simple.

I would always say, “I don’t practice in the area of criminal law to support crime. I’m happy when criminals are justly punished.”

During my career as an appellate criminal defense attorney, I wrote and had my writing accepted for publication in various works. I wrote several articles for the Oklahoma Bar Journal, and I currently am on the editorial board and write legal articles for the  Q & A Newsletter of the Criminal Section of the OBA. I practice criminal law because when I protect the constitutional rights of the worst among us, I am also protect the constitutional rights of the best among us.

Are you interested in true crime series, whether in books, TV series and podcasts? As a reader, what kind of questions would you ask Lisbeth? As a writer, do you have technical questions for a criminal defense attorney?

My crime novel, The Blue Bar is out this year with Thomas & Mercer. Add it to Goodreads or order it to make my day. Adding the book as a Want to Read, or voting on any of the lists it is on is a free way to support an author.
If you liked this post, you can receive posts in your inbox, or keep updated on my writing by clicking on any or all of the following buttons:


Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • This reads like a well researched and documented true-crime book… definitely going to read it sometime… Thank you Damyanti for posting about it…

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – what a brilliant source for information … Lisbeth L McCarty must be fascinating to spend time with. Cheers Hilary

  • Layla Todd says:

    I love true crime stories as they are often so senseless and much more raw than fictional murders. I look forward to checking out Mental States of Murderesses. 🙂

  • I’m curious whether Sheila Labarre or Helen Garland is included in Lizbeth’s book. They’re two notorious New Hampshire murderers.

  • That is terrifying. I think the only way I could be around these murderers is via a book. I am thankful people like Lisbeth stand in their way.

  • Terrible your pregnant niece was killed. And shocking that the guards let that one woman roam free on occasion.

%d bloggers like this: