Carol Polakoff’s Viewfinder Pictures and Lane Shefter Bishop’s Vast Entertainment have optioned John Henry Browne’s autobiography The Devil’s Defender: My Odyssey Through American Criminal Justice from Ted Bundy to the Kandahar Massacre for development as an hourlong TV drama series. The project is being eyed for a premium cable network or streaming service with a 10- to 13-episode first season.
The book, published this year by the Chicago Review Press, details the life of the infamous defense attorney whose career has been built on defending the indefensible. His clients have included serial killer Ted Bundy and Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan citizens (mostly women and children) in an incident known as the Kandahar Massacre. The book also details Browne’s turbulent personal life, the pro bono cases he works for a dollar, including Colton Harris-Moore (aka “The Barefoot Bandit”), who stole planes and led authorities on a 2 1/2-year manhunt, and the mysterious murder of the love of his life — a killing that closely mimics the work of his most famous client and haunts him to this day.
“John Henry Browne is a most fascinating and complicated hero,” Polakoff said. “From playing rock ‘n’ roll and opening for Hendrix, his story takes us from reforming the prison system to defending angels and devils against the death penalty and justice system. At the same time he is battling his own demons that rage day and night, and instead of taking him down, they empower him to take even greater risks and battle the most confounding legal cases of our time. His humanity and his collision with the powers that be make this giant of a man both relatable and mind-bogglingly beguiling.”
The deal for the rights was brokered by Frank Weimann of Folio Literary on behalf of the author and by Lane Shefter Bishop on behalf of Viewfinder Pictures and Vast Entertainment.