Local attorney, detective pen law-related books

Attorney Thomas Casselman has written two new books with his wife Rhonda, who is a licensed private detective. The purpose of the books is to educate the public and law enforcement about how the legal system works in certain situations. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Two newly published books use actual local cases to educate the public and law enforcement about how the legal system works.

“Money Talks” and “Don’t Talk, You’ll Walk” were written by Thomas Casselman, of Casselman & Henderson PC, and his wife Rhonda, a private detective.

Thomas Casselman, who was a defense attorney for 52 years, in 2012 wrote a book titled “I Talk, You Walk” to enlighten the public things about the law, illustrated by case history, about which they’d usually have to hire a lawyer to find out, such as how to pick a jury.

The new novels have a law-related theme as well.

“Money Talks” is a fictional work that tells of a manslaughter trial inspired by actual events in the Upper Peninsula.

The book has a twofold purpose, Thomas Casselman said.

“It’s to entertain and it’s to explain to citizens how the defense investigates,” he said. “It’s different than the police investigation. We only have one client, and the state has all of us as a client.”

In the book, two drivers who were under the influence of alcohol and cocaine drove through a stop sign and hit a vehicle driven by a grandfather and grandmother.

“One of the passengers in the offending vehicle is thrown and crushed and killed,” Thomas Casselman said. “The surviving passenger is found in the footwell of the passenger seat. The problem becomes: Who drove? Nobody can say who drove the offending vehicle.”

The result was two parallel investigations by the police — who determined the survivor was the driver — and a law firm. Complicating the case was the surviving passenger having amnesia.

“So, the survivor says, ‘If the police charge me, I want you to investigate to find out if I drove. If I drove, I’ll plead guilty,'” Thomas Casselman said.

Another wrinkle was that the deceased man was the survivor’s best friend, and they had married sisters.

“The story is interesting for the fact that you get to see what goes on when you win and when lose, and when the facts don’t go your way,” he said. “What do you do next? You’re always swimming upstream. So, it comes down to a contest between physics, mechanics, centrifugal force for the police, and forensic medicine for the defense.”

Thomas Casselman said the defense performed better on the case than the police, who made assumptions.

Thus, “Money Talks” can be a primer of sorts.

“The deputies and the police officers have the opportunity to have a book that says ‘Don’t do it this way. This is what the defense is doing.'”

He didn’t divulge the ending except to say people won’t expect it to conclude that way.

“Don’t Talk, You’ll Walk” is more like his first book.

“The police come every day to citizens,” Thomas Casselman said. “Whether the citizen is guilty or not guilty, or innocent or not innocent, the police always, “I know you’re a good citizen and you want to cooperate, and we have just a couple of questions.”

However, police are experienced in eliciting the answers they want. Now how is the playing field leveled?

“The object here is to say, ‘Thank you for your service, officer. I’ll be happy to cooperate as soon as I’ve had an opportunity to talk with my attorney,'” Thomas Casselman said.

People formerly had to be read their rights when suspected of a crime. However, he said that’s no longer the case.

“Now they are read their rights when arrested,” Thomas Casselman said. “So, what usually happens is they say, ‘We have just a couple of questions. Can you answer them? You’re not under arrest.’ The moment you answer, now you’re under arrest and now they read you your rights. But it’s too late. You’ve already spoken.”

Since the rules have changed, he believes citizens should realize that talking to police at the beginning of the investigation when they’re not under arrest could be used against them regardless of their guilt or innocence.

“Once they read you your rights, you’ve already spoken,” Thomas Casselman said. “It’s little hard to ask for lawyers then. So, this is an education for the general public.”

One example mentioned in the book was the case of a Marquette McDonald’s employee who chose “silence and a trial.”

That employee eventually was convicted of attempted armed robbery instead of armed robbery, which changed the course of his life. Being convicted of the lesser offense earned him only an 18-month sentence, which was commuted to 12 months. Had he been convicted of armed robbery, he could have received a sentence of five to 25 years.

Following his release, the employee graduated from Michigan Technological University with a degree in construction engineering and later formed a multinational company specializing in hospital construction.

Rhonda Casselman, a licensed private detective who holds an in-field weapon permit, called herself a “behind-the-scenes” person when it came to contributing to the two new books.

As a private detective, Rhonda Casselman worked only for the defense, and used to sit in the courtrooms with the attorneys.

Because of this experience, she was instrumental in the creation of the two books, having helped with story ideas and coming up with the proper cases to help her husband relate law concepts.

“We really discussed a lot of it as we went along,” she said.

Rhonda Casselman was involved with “Money Talks” in a different way.

“My part was I did the first editing, and I also came up with a lot of the ideas that were involved in the book,” she said.

The books can be purchased as a set for $25, or individually for $15, at Casselman & Henderson PC, 148 W. Washington St. They also will be sold at the TV6 Christmas Craft Show Friday through Sunday at the Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University.

A book reading is scheduled for Jan. 14 at the Peter White Public Library.

Thomas Casselman said it is hoped book sales will allow the publishing of an as-yet-untitled book. Only 300 book sets of “Money Talks” and “Don’t Talk, You’ll Walk” have been printed, although the purpose isn’t to make money.

“I want police educated and I want the general public educated,” he said.