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Any fan of Law & Order will believe criminal-defense attorney Denise LeBoeuf, as quoted in Helen Prejean’s The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions: “‘[W]hat you present at trial is not just fact after fact, but competing stories.’” Joseph O’Dell tried to join this raconteur’s circle by representing himself in his 1986 rape/murder trial. “Maybe he thought he didn’t need a lawyer to defend him,” writes Prejean, “because he could walk into the courtroom and tell his version of events to the jury so compellingly that surely he could convince them he didn’t kill Helen Schartner.” His notes sure make him sound like an innocent man railroaded by a bitter girlfriend, a jailhouse snitch, and possibly even police collusion. And a pass under Occam’s razor doesn’t cut it, either; there were other likely suspects. O’Dell was executed in Virginia—the Avis to Texas’ Hertz in the death-penalty biz—in 1997. Prejean reads at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Pamela Murray Winters)