Released: April 24, 2018
Until now, no one has ever written a book about how the secret grand jury system works in this country from the inside—from the point of view of a grand juror. The Trial before the Trial is that insider’s expose. Ernest Larsen served nine days on a special narcotics grand jury in Manhattan before being forced off—at the insistence of the district attorney—and accused of contempt of court. Why? Because day after day he kept trying to halt what he saw as the exercise of racialized injustice. This book, at once ironic and angry, written in the form of a nonfiction novel, brings to light what really happens on a grand jury, a factual story that takes place just a few months before the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the rise of Black Lives Matter.
“For years, now, Autonomedia has published some of the most provocative political thinking we’ve seen from a small press. The Trial Before the Trial is right in there with the best and most interesting.” — Samuel R. Delany
"Richard Pryor said when he went to court seeking justice what he found was ‘just us.’ Forty years later Ernie Larsen again has found ‘just us.’ Through his extraordinary observations that are fascinating, engaging, troubling, really funny and a whole lot more, Larsen finds a broken system of justice that discourages curiosity and defies common sense and reason. Unfortunately, what is revealed is not shocking but the changing same: the tragic dimensions of justice. Larsen finds himself in a conundrum. While he cannot sit in judgment of his fellow human beings, he can judge a system that was meant to protect and serve." — Carrie Mae Weems