Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

An excerpt from John Grisham’s legal thriller A Time To Defend Looking At Child Porn

Illustration for article titled An excerpt from John Grisham’s legal thriller A Time To Defend Looking At Child Porn

Young, brash, 59-year-old former attorney John Grisham stood before the court of public opinion, feeling the eyes of the jury of the world on him. The Telegraph stenographer took furious notes in the corner as he approached the bench. Grisham checked the buttons of his crisp lawyering shirt to see that they were as square as his shoulders—and his convictions. The expensive leather briefcase he’d bought just out of law school lay on the lawyer table, in case he needed to suddenly pick it up and run through any underground parking garages, for lawyer reasons.


Inside it was a copy of Gray Mountain, the latest in a long line of legal thrillers like The Firm and The Pelican Brief that Grisham had written, all as part of a distinguished career of defending the rights of the people to have something to kill time at airports. But now he was arguing the greatest case of his life: the right of older white men to avoid prison time for looking at child porn. He brashly cleared his throat.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” Grisham began. “But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Grisham paused, letting the jury’s sympathy sink in. He was certain he could feel them nodding in agreement. After all, who among them hadn’t been surfing the Internet, pushing away at Internet buttons, then accidentally ended up on a child porn site? Who among them hadn’t been a 60-year-old white man who’d had too much to drink? Those buttons are confusing; those drunk, 60-year-old white men so easily confused. This was a clear case of entrapment.

Brashly, Grisham turned and picked up a legal brief labeled State Of Canada V. My Good Buddy From Law School. As an impressed silence filled the room, he began to read.

“His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled ‘sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that’. And it said ‘16-year-old girls’. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff—it was 16 year old girls who looked 30.

He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people—sex offenders—and he went to prison for three years.”

Tears brimming his eyes, Grisham let his words linger there, like a 60-year-old man who’d seen the words “16-Year-Old Wannabe Hookers Or Something Like That” on his Internet machine. The jury contemplated the shocking facts at hand. Those 16-year-old girls had looked like 30-year-old women, and yet Grisham’s good buddy had still gone to jail. He’d entered a plea of “shouldn’t’a done it,” filed a writ of habeus not-10-year-old-boys, and still he was in jail. Worse—Canadian jail.

Clearly the system had failed these 60-year-old white guys. It was time to put the system on trial. And Grisham was just the lawyer who wrote about other lawyers putting the system on trial to do it.


“There’s so many ‘sex offenders’—that’s what they’re called—that they put them in the same prison. Like they’re a bunch of perverts, or something; thousands of ’em. We’ve gone nuts with this incarceration,” Grisham said, his voice rising dramatically. “I have no sympathy for real pedophiles. God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that’s what they’re getting.”

Lawyerly, Grisham returned to his lawyer table, confident he’d brashly lawyered on behalf of old white men and their right to not be put in pervert jail, just because they happened to accidentally seek out and accidentally download a bunch of child pornography. Child pornography that was made by the real pedophiles. If anyone deserved to be locked up, it was them. Them and the Internet buttons. And the scotch.


The gavel came down. Grisham had presented his ironclad defense of casual child porn connoisseurs, and now the shocking verdict was read aloud: John Grisham was guilty of being an asshat.

Chagrinned, he took to the steps outside of the court of public opinion. The cameras waited there for him, looking but not touching in a way that Grisham couldn’t fault them for, because maybe they were just curious. Maybe they’d had some drinks.


Brashly, he read aloud his apology:

Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography—online or otherwise—should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable.

I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all.

With that, John Grisham slid his apology into his briefcase. And glancing nervously over his shoulder, he began to run briskly into the night.