Ga. drowning victim was key figure in trial that inspired “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”

·1 min read

A Georgia man who drowned has been identified as a prominent attorney involved in the court case that inspired book and film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Authorities said Deppish Kirkland died in a boating accident in Bear Creek on Lake Jackson on Sunday. He was 72.

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The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said Kirkland was riding on the gunwale of a boat when he fell. The boat’s operator, Bruce Kirkland Phillips, 64, is facing charges of boating under the influence. It’s unclear if Phillips is related to Kirkland.

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“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was initially a non-fiction book published in 1994 that followed the story of an eccentric Savannah antiques dealer, Jim Williams, on trial for the murder of a male prostitute. 22-year-old Danny Hansford.

The book was adapted into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood in 1997.

At the time of the murder, Kirkland was the former Chatham County chief assistant district attorney, according to the Savannah Morning News. Kirkland arrived at the murder scene at Williams’ home when Hansford’s body was still on the floor.

Kirkland was later on the prosecutorial team that tried Williams in the first of four trials.

Kirkland gave the state’s closing argument in the case. Williams was found guilty, but the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the decision.

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Williams was ultimately acquitted, claiming self-defense.

In 2021, Kirkland published a non-fiction book, “Lawyer Games,” which gave an in-depth look at the case and claimed to “expose the legal mischief spawned when a defendant facing unshakable physical evidence possesses almost unlimited funds.”