Category Archives: Book recommendations/discussion

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

  • The Exonerated (the play) in ebook format
  • From the AP:  The Texas state fire marshal has volunteered to turn over more than a decade of his office’s casework to advocates so they can examine them for wrongful convictions.  Fire Marshal Chris Connealy has been working with the Innocence Project of Texas for more than a year to review old cases.  But now he’s sent 24 cases from 2002 to 2004 to the Innocence Project so the Lubbock-based group can vet his office’s work, with a pledge to turn over all of his more recent case files. He says it’s an important step for the public “to have confidence in the criminal justice system.” Several high-profile arson cases have come under scrutiny in Texas, including that of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for the fire deaths of his three daughters.
  • Oscar nominated director to direct The Brian Banks Story
  • Two new books about wrongful conviction by Morrison Bonpasse
  • Summary of Amanda Knox appeal
  • The latest from the Innocence Project of Singapore

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

Friday Quick Clicks…

  • A Final Farewell to Greg Wilhoit, Who Survived Oklahoma’s Death Row
  • New book released:  I am Troy Davis
  • A Pittsburgh man serving three life terms deserves a new trial in the death of three city firefighters, but the retrial will be delayed while prosecutors appeal the judge’s decision.  When Greg Brown was convicted of arson in a 1995 blaze that killed three Pittsburgh firefighters, prosecutors said no witnesses were promised money in exchange for testimony.  Allegheny County Judge Joseph Williams on Wednesday ruled 36-year-old Gregory Brown Jr. deserved the new trial because prosecutors didn’t reveal that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms paid one witness a $5,000 reward.  That witness testified he wasn’t promised any money for his testimony, which Williams said could have been used to impeach his credibility had Brown’s defense known about the reward.  Full story….

Australia: Call for end of juries in new book: ‘Presumed Guilty’

A veteran reporter in Western Australia, Bret Christian, has written a new book entitled ‘Presumed Guilty’. In promoting the book, he has given an interesting radio interview where he calls for the abolition of juries. He claims that having covered many miscarriages of justice, this may prevent further occurring. You can listen to the interview here….   

More details on the book are available here:

Presumed Guilty

Bret Christian506782

Friday’s Quick Clicks…


Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Scotland may get rid of 300 year old corroboration rule, which requires multiple pieces of corroborating evidence before a conviction can be obtained.  It was implemented to avoid wrongful convictions
  • A review of Michael Naughton’s The Innocent and the Criminal Justice System
  • A Texas fire review panel flagged two quarter-century-old arson cases on Wednesday, saying investigators were mistaken in finding that the defendants set intentional fires.
  • Exoneree Brian Banks:  the best revenge is success

Monday’s Quick Clicks…


Friday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Actor Martin Sheen said Thursday he won’t stop backing a man’s bid to be exonerated in a 1998 killing, although prosecutors have concluded the case was sound.  Sheen said in a statement he was outraged by the Manhattan district attorney’s recent decision in the case of Jon-Adrian Velazquez, who was convicted of killing a retired police officer. Some witnesses have since backtracked, but prosecutors say an 18-month-long review didn’t turn up enough proof to clear Velazquez.  “I promised Jon-Adrian that I would not give up the fight to see him walk out of prison a free man and I repeat that promise today,” Sheen said in the statement, provided by Velazquez’ lawyers, who filed papers Thursday asking a judge to dismiss the case.  “He is an innocent man, wrongfully convicted. May justice prevail,” Sheen added.
  • A central New York man who spent nine years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of trying to kill his wife has won $5.5 million in damages from the state.  Syracuse-area media outlets report a state Court of Claims judge ordered the payment to 46-year-old Daniel Gristwood of Pennellville. The judge ruled in 2011 that state police coerced him into falsely confessing in 1996.  Gristwood was released from prison in 2005 after another man admitted attacking the sleeping Christina Gristwood with a hammer.
  • A review of Amanda Knox’ new book
  • After wrongful conviction in Nicaragua, Jason Puracal wants to work to change the system

Miami ‘injustice system’ gets international attention

The release this week of Amanda Knox’s book, Waiting to be Heard, and her hour-long interview on ABC last night puts the focus on the growing problem of citizens of one country being convicted in the unfamiliar court system of another country.

Knox has gained strong sympathy in her native United States. But feelings toward her in Italy, where her murder conviction occurred before being overturned, and in Great Britain, where murdered roommate Meredith Kercher was from, are less favorable.

The shoe is on the other foot in the murder conviction in the United States of a British citizen of Indian descent, Kris Maharaj, who grew up in Trinidad and made a fortune in Britain before moving to Florida. Maharaj has gained lots of support and media exposure in Britain, but relatively little in the U.S.

Maharaj got a rude introduction to the American justice system when two business rivals were killed in a Miami hotel room in 1986 and he was convicted of their murders and sentenced to death. Maharaj’s case had many sordid aspects, including a judge who was arrested mid-trial on bribery charges, a lackadaisical attorney (who is now a judge), police and prosecutors who withheld evidence, Caribbean con-artists and Columbian cocaine dealers.

Clive Stafford Smith bares these facts in his compelling book, The Injustice System: A Murder in Miami and a Trial Gone Wrong, which was previously published in Britain as Injustice.

Stafford Smith has an interesting perspective. The British citizen attended the University of North Carolina and graduated from Columbia Law School. He then spent two decades representing death-row clients in the United States before returning to Britain, where he is founder and director of Reprieve, a nonprofit legal defense firm. One of his American clients was Maharaj. In his book, Stafford Smith recounts how he developed convincing evidence that the murders for which Maharaj was sentenced to death were really committed by a Columbian hit man to exact revenge for the victims’ theft of a drug cartel’s profits.

Stafford Smith tells how he got Maharaj’s death sentence overturned with some regret. Why? Because, Stafford Smith says, American courts are far less likely to consider evidence of innocence if the defendant isn’t on death row. As a result, Maharaj, now in his 70s, languishes in prison with little chance of having the evidence Stafford Smith has developed ever considered. You can read more about the case here and here.

Early reviews of Amanda Knox book starting to appear

Waiting to be Heard, Amanda Knox’s book about her wrongful murder conviction in Italy, subsequent acquittal and current legal limbo. isn’t due for release until April 30, but advance reviews are already starting to appear. According to this review in The New York Times, Knox does more than argue her innocence. She also shares how she survived being snared in the web of a Kafkaesqe high-profile case. ”I pulled myself out of the dark place into which I’d tumbled,” she writes. I promised myself I’d live in a way that I could respect. I would love myself. And I would live as fully as I could in confinement.”

New Scholarship Spotlight: Prosecution (Is) Complex


Alafair S. Burke

Alafair S. Burke

Alafair S. Burke has posted the above titled-article, a book review of Prosecution Complex, on SSRN.  Download here.  The abstract says:

Post-conviction DNA testing has led to the exoneration of nearly three hundred defendants. As the number of exonerations grows, we are in an era where the once unthinkable is now undeniable. We convict the innocent. We imprison the innocent. We place the innocent on death row. Daniel Medwed brings this reality to life in his captivating book, Prosecution Complex, which carefully documents the myriad ways that prosecutors can contribute to wrongful convictions at every stage of a criminal case. From the charging decision to plea bargaining to trial to post-conviction, Medwed argues, prosecutors face an “ongoing schizophrenia” as they seek to balance dual roles in the criminal justice system, trying to serve both as zealous advocates for the government and as neutral ministers of justice.

This book essay offers three lessons that can be gleaned from Medwed’s central thesis that prosecutors must struggle to balance their dual roles as advocates and ministers of justice. Two of these lessons are for prosecutors: 1) that the protection of justice means not only the protection of the innocent, but also the fostering of a fair process, and 2) that prosecutors can mitigate the possibility that they will contribute to a wrongful conviction by seeking out contrary voices that foster neutral decision-making. The third lesson, aimed at the wrongful convictions movement, is to avoid a language of fault, which has a tendency to focus reform efforts on intentional misconduct and to signal to virtuous prosecutors that they need not worry that they may contribute to a wrongful conviction. Prosecution Complex is a significant book that should be read by any scholar, lawyer, or layperson who cares about criminal justice. But its most essential audience is prosecutors themselves, who hold the key to the most feasible and important reforms in the prevention of erroneous convictions.


Book Review: Manifest Injustice…

UntitledBy Rob Warden for the Chicago Tribune:

Courting reflection on justice


“Manifest Injustice” is an apt, allegorical title for Barry Siegel’s latest book, which makes three points didactically: First, the law can be an ass — to a greater extent than Charles Dickens imagined. Second, when it comes to administering justice, the courts can be at an utter loss. Third, plea bargaining can be just a kinder, gentler form of torture, with the same result — manifest injustice.

Manifest Injustice

By Barry Siegel, Henry Holt, 385

pages, $28

Siegel’s book is journalism at its best, a haunting, lucid, rigorously researched account of a multifaceted tragedy born of the murders of a young couple off a lovers’ lane in the desert near Scottsdale, Ariz., on a warm May night in 1962. Over the next five decades, the case took one vexing turn after another, each time skirting any semblance of common sense.

It is a story of the worst and best of humanity — from a woman whose scorn for her estranged husband led to his conviction for the murders, to a psychopathic killer who repeatedly confessed to the crime, to prosecutors and judges who relied upon a legal principle of dubious applicability to prevent two juries from learning about those confessions, and to dedicated lawyers who relentlessly championed justice for a man they believed innocent.

At the time of the murders, Seigel tells us, Bill Macumber and his wife, the former Carol Kempfert, had been married a little less than a year — happily by all accounts. They lived in Phoenix, where Bill, an Army veteran who had never been in trouble, operated a filling station with his father. In short order, Carol gave Continue reading

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

  • The Innocence Project recently filed a motion on behalf of Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen seeking DNA testing of crime scene evidence that could support his longstanding claims of innocence. Swearingen, who is scheduled to be executed in six weeks on February 27, has been requesting the testing of the ligature used to strangle the victim, her fingernail scrapings, clothing and other evidence for years. As the motion notes, the current DNA testing statute was expanded by the Texas legislature in direct response to Swearingen’s unsuccessful requests for testing.
  • Will New York implement wrongful conviction reforms?
  • Exoneree Audrey Edmonds talks about her new book
  • Priest exonerated in Wales 350 years after his death

Former death row inmate finally declared innocent

Thirty years after the murders that put him on death row, 22 years after his conviction was overturned and four years after another man confessed to the murders, an Ohio court has finally declared Dale Johnston an innocent man. It’s certainly about time.

In a ruling issued yesterday, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Frye said that the state’s attempt to thwart Johnston’s effort to clear his name was “illogical … absurd (and) mean-spirited.” The story about Frye’s ruling is here. A previous post about Guilty by Popular Demand, Bill Osinski’s excellent new book about Johnston’s case, is here.

Wrongful Conviction and Innocence Work Have No Boundaries

Last year the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) hosted the 2011 Innocence Network Conference: An International Exploration of Wrongful Conviction at Freedom Center in Cincinnati (details here). It was the first international conference focusing on the global human rights problem of wrongful conviction. The four-day event (April 7-10, 2011) was an extraordinary gathering of 500 attendees, including scholars, lawyers, and more than 100 exonerees from around the world who met, networked, participated in seminars, and attended addresses on wrongful conviction. Continue reading

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Thursday’s Quick Clicks…

  • On November 9th, the Temple Law Review and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project will hold a symposium on false confessions
  • Police officers in New York City will soon videotape many more interrogations of suspects because jurors are so used to seeing taped interviews on television shows like “CSI” they’ve come to expect recordings as routine, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said yesterday
  • Review of the 10th Anniversary run of The Exonerated in NYC
  • Exoneree Danny Colon seeks $120 million from NYPD and a prosecutor for wrongful conviction
  • Wrongful convictions still at risk in the UK
  • Book by Damien Echols of the West Memphis 3 is released