I grabbed this book on a quick slide through the true crime section on a day where my library trip needed to be lightning quick. It was slick and glossy and not too fat, ideal for my weekend trip. Overturning Wrongful Convictions by Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD was indeed slick and glossy all the way through. Much of the content was written for the completely ignorant segment of the population who has never before read anything on the criminal justice system, gone to a class on US Government or seen the constitution. In fact, I think you would know a good measure of the information in this book if you had even watched an episode of Law and Order.
However, I cannot poke too much fun at someone who attempts to educate. It’s a noble calling. And one that is desperately needed.
The other portion of the book contained stories of wrongful convictions and how the innocent ended up in prison and how they eventually got out. It was interesting to me. I’ve always struggled to balance what I want to believe is a true justice system with the knowledge that there are bad apples in every bunch. I need reminders about my tendency to slip on rose colored glasses. I’m reminded.
A lot of the statistics in this book are full statistics, by which I mean they tell you each percentage and what that group covers, rather than laying out one number and allowing you to infer whatever you like about the rest. The one that stuck with me the most, and there are a lot of haunting stats, is this one: Of the 87 exonerations recorded by the National Registry of Exonerations in 2013, nearly one third involved alleged crimes that never even took place. WTF? Bad enough to serve time for a crime someone else committed due to incorrect witness identification, judge or prosecution or police misbehavior, but to do the average of 13 years (how long an innocent serves prior to release) for a crime that didn’t even happen…
The cases presented run the gambit from convicted on circumstantial evidence to prosecution or police had evidence that proved the guy/gal on trial didn’t do it and they hid that evidence.
℘℘℘℘℘ – I’m torn between five and four pages on this one. It is a well written book. I did read it in one sitting, although at 107 pages that’s not saying much. The cases presented are sobering, frightening, and make me wonder why people always want to take the easy way out. As in “let’s just convict the ones we have in custody rather than doing the leg work.”
I will quote another statistic as I close, it is estimated that around 2% of the population in prison is innocent of their charges. Which means by in large, most of the people in prison were guilty of the crimes they committed. So does the system work? I’m going to say not very well, because if Bob is arrested and does time for Neil, what is Neil up to in those intervening years? Well according to research by the NRE; more murders, rapes, car-jackings, etc. What do you think?
One thought on “Monday Book Review: Overturning Wrongful Convictions”
Another question which comes to mind is when a person is charged and there is some reasonable doubt that he has committed the crime, should the jury risk an innocent person to be convicted for a crime they might not have done.
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