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Stories about wrongful conviction and related issues

First articles, then books. Updated from an earlier version.


• See below a list of books about wrongful convictions and related issues, recommended by the highly valued Innocence Project, which works nationwide to free the innocent and reform our criminal justice system. See The Innocence Project: A Short History Since 1983 (Black Past). "DNA testing has exonerated more than 345 innocent people in the United States – and others are still waiting for justice."
• Also of interest: The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), based in Montgomery, Alabama, "provides legal representation to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes, poor prisoners without effective representation, and others who may have been denied a fair trial." Read about it in the bestseller Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  On EJI's website (with links to material on racial justice, children in prison, mass incarceration, the death penalty, and "just mercy"): "Since 1973, 166 people have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence was uncovered. A shocking rate of error has emerged: for every nine people executed in this country, one innocent person has been exonerated."


Articles about wrongful convictions (and exonerations)

Sentenced to death, but innocent: These are stories of justice gone wrong. (Phillip Morris, National Geographic, 2-18-21) Since 1973, more than 8,700 people in the U.S. have been sent to death row. At least 182 weren’t guilty—their lives upended by a system that nearly killed them.
More than half of all wrongful criminal convictions are caused by government misconduct, study finds (Tom Jackman, Washington Post, 9-16-20) Misconduct can be intentional or unintentional, but either way innocent people are found guilty
Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent:The Role of Prosecutors, Police and Other Law Enforcement (Samuel R. Gross, Maurice J. Possley, Kaitlin Jackson Roll, Klara Huber Stephens,National Registry of Exonerations, 9-1-20) The study cites five types of misconduct that lead to wrongful convictions: witness tampering, misconduct in interrogations, fabricating evidence, concealing exculpatory evidence and misconduct at trial. It found that Black defendants were slightly more likely than White defendants to be victims of misconduct, 57 percent to 52 percent, but that the racial difference was much larger for drug crimes — 47 to 22 percent — and in murder cases, 78 to 64 percent. In some instances, authorities purposefully sought to improperly influence a case; other times their missteps were unintentional or based on flawed techniques.
National Registry of Exonerations (a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law) See Registry tallies over 2,000 wrongful convictions since 1989 ( David G. Savage, Washington Bureau, Los Angeles Times, 5-20-12) More than 2,000 people have been freed from prison in the U.S. since 1989 after they were found to have been wrongly convicted of serious crimes, according to a new National Registry of Exonerations compiled by University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University. Follow Exoneration Registry.

% Exonerations by Contributing Factor (National Registry of Exonerations) Factors: Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, False Confession, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Official Misconduct.
Wrongful conviction podcasts
Wrongful Convictions (National Institute of Justice) Articles and other resources on such topics as DNA testing,forensic science, erroneous identification.
Causes of wrongful conviction (Innocence Clinic, Michigan Law, University of MIchigan)

List of Wrongful Convictions (Wikipedia)
New Docuseries Highlights the Impact of Wrong Convictions (Sameer Rao, ColorLines, 10-30-18) The first episode of Vice’s “Innocence Ignored” explores the many drawbacks of Alford pleas, which prevent compensation for the wrongfully convicted.
Wrongful Convictions: A New Exoneration Registry Tests Stubborn Judges (Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, 5-21-12)
Righting Wrongful Convictions of Youth: What You Can Do (Terry Keleher, ColorLines, 10-4-09) Each year in the US, millions of young people interact with juvenile and criminal courts where they often face unfair treatment and racial discrimination.
The Neighbors Who Destroyed Their Lives (Robert Kolker, The Atlantic, 12-22-23) Murder and lies in small-town Hawaii. "Wrongful convictions can result from any number of cascading errors, blatant oversights, and outright slipups—some conscious and deliberate, some structural and circumstantial. Over 32 years, the investigation and prosecutions of the Schweitzers seem to have incorporated every possible one of them. There was intense media attention putting pressure on police to make an arrest—the “dead white girl” phenomenon. There was cultural bias against Native Hawaiians like the Schweitzers—the legacy, well known to Hawaiians, of lynchings of native men for alleged attacks on white women. There was investigative tunnel vision—going after the Schweitzer brothers even after the facts failed to support that case. There was blind faith in jailhouse informants—a slew of them, all hoping for special favors from prosecutors in return for their testimony. There was junk science—about teeth marks, and tire treads. There even may have been prosecutorial misconduct—a state lawyer misleading a judge about the outcome of one of the brothers’ polygraph tests."
Articles about wrongful convictions (ColorLines)


Books about wrongful conviction and related issues

*DISCLOSURE: Buy anything from Amazon after clicking on a link here and I get a minuscule referral fee for your purchases, with no additional cost to you. Even better, encourage your library to buy these books from the publisher, and check them out of the library.


Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer (2000)
Adams vs. Texas: The True Story Made Famous by the Highly Acclaimed Film The Thin Blue Line by Randall Adams, with William Hoffer and .Marilyn Mona Hoffer (1991)
An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington Jr by Margaret Edds (2003)
Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin (2004)
The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City's Most Infamous Crimes by Sarah Burns (2011)
Convicting the Innocent: The Story of a Murder, a False Confession, and the Struggle to Free a ‘Wrong Man’ by Donald S. Connery (1996)
Convicting the Innocent, Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong by Brandon Garrett (2011)
Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman’s Harrowing Quest for Justice by Bill Lueders (2006) The injustice in this case was suffered by a 38-year-old blind woman who “suffered from incompetence and bias at every level of law enforcement.” “Lueders lays bare the many missteps of the case, starting with the detective's bias and continuing through the unwillingness of the justice system to support one woman's word against the police, even after DNA evidence was found.”
Drawn to Injustice: The Wrongful Conviction of Timothy Masters by Timothy Masters and Steve Lehto (2012)
The Dreams of Ada by Robert Mayer (1987)
Executed on a Technicality: Lethal Injustice on America’s Death Row by David Dow (2005)
Exit to Freedom by Calvin Johnson with Greg Hampikian (2003)
False Justice: Eight Myths That Lead to Wrongful Convictions by Jim Petro and Nancy Petro (2011)
Full Circle: A True Story of Murder, Lies and Vindication by Gloria Killian and Sandra Kobrin (2012)
Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton (2014)
In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process by Dan Simon (2012)
The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham (2006)
The Innocents by Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck, Althea Wasow, and Taryn Simon (2003) Leading civil rights attorneys Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project commissioned photographer Taryn Simon to travel across the United States photographing and interviewing individuals who were convicted of heinous crimes of which they were innocent. Simon photographed these innocents at sites of particular significance to their illegitimate conviction: the scene of the crime, misidentification, arrest, or alibi. Simon’s portraits are accompanied by a commentary by Neufeld and Scheck.
Journey Toward Justice by Dennis Fritz (2006)
Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom by John Hollway and Ronald M. Gauthier (2010)
Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, with Erin Torneo (2009)
A Promise of Justice: The Eighteen-Year Fight to Save Four Innocent Men by David Protess and Rob Warden (1998)
Pruno, Ramen, and a Side of Hope: Stories of Surviving Wrongful Conviction by Courtney B. Lance & Nikki D. Pope (2015)
Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated compiled and edited by Lola Vollen and Dave Eggers, foreword by Scott Turow (2005)
Tested: How Twelve Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope by Peyton Budd and Dorothy Budd (2010)
Tulia:Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee (2005)
Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty by Scott Turow 2003.

You can donate directly to the Innocence Project here. Donations to The Innocence Project are 100% tax-deductible.  Also, Get involved with the Equal Justice Initiative.

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