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Convicting the Innocent: Death Row and America's Broken System of Justice
     

Convicting the Innocent: Death Row and America's Broken System of Justice

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by Stanley Cohen
 

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“A landmark in the fight against the death penalty. Extensively researched and brilliantly written.” Martin Garbus, criminal defense attorney

Every day, innocent men across America are thrown into prison, betrayed by a faulty justice system, and robbed of their lives—either by decades-long sentences or the death penalty itself. Injustice

Overview


“A landmark in the fight against the death penalty. Extensively researched and brilliantly written.” Martin Garbus, criminal defense attorney

Every day, innocent men across America are thrown into prison, betrayed by a faulty justice system, and robbed of their lives—either by decades-long sentences or the death penalty itself. Injustice tarnishes our legal process from start to finish. From the racial discrimination and violence used by backwards law enforcement officers, to a prison culture that breeds inmate conflict, there is opportunity for error at every turn.

Award-winning journalist Stanley Cohen chronicles over one hundred of these cases, from the 1973 case of the first ever death row exoneree, David Keaton, to multiple cases as of 2015 that resulted from the corrupt practices of NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella (with nearly seventy Brooklyn cases under review for wrongful conviction). In the wake of these unjust convictions, grassroots organizations, families, and pro bono lawyers have battled this rampant wrongdoing. Cohen reveals how eyewitness error, jailhouse snitch testimony, racism, junk science, prosecutorial misconduct, and incompetent counsel have populated America’s prisons with the innocent.

Readers embark on journeys with men who were arrested, convicted, sentenced to life in prison or death, dragged through the appeals system, and finally set free based on their actual innocence. Although these stories end with vindication, there are those that have ended with unjustified execution. Convicting the Innocent is sure to fuel controversy over a justice system that has delivered the ultimate punishment nearly one thousand times since 1976, though it cannot guarantee accurate convictions.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A disturbing compendium of wrongful convictions...[Cohen] brings moral outrage to this complex subject...A valuable accounting of a hidden societal plague." —Kirkus

"A must for students and workers in the field of criminal justice, and a solid read for anyone interested in true crime literature." —Library Journal

Library Journal
04/01/2016
Journalist Cohen (The Game They Played) opens his latest book with a graphic description of an execution of a prisoner on death row, citing its supporters. Among them, he points out, the recently deceased Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia who "appeared to view the death penalty as a recreational activity." But here's the catch-22: innocent people can be put to death owing to our flawed justice system. Cohen goes on to tell the stories of a number of people who sidestepped the death penalty, sometimes by the skin of their teeth, via a thorough investigation of their cases. Among the reasons for their wrongful convictions: eyewitness error, jailhouse snitches, racism, prosecutorial misconduct, and incompetent counsel. If the nation will not abolish the death penalty, Cohen argues that it should at the very least work not to execute the blameless. The accounts are often repetitive as the author pounds away at his message and may require the labor of love to read, but they are overall informative. VERDICT A must for students and workers in the field of criminal justice, and a solid read for anyone interested in true crime literature.—Frances O. Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY
Kirkus Reviews
2016-02-15
A disturbing compendium of wrongful convictions resulting in death sentences, focusing on individual stories and patterns of institutional failure. Veteran journalist Cohen (The Execution of Officer Becker: The Murder of a Gambler, the Trial of a Cop, and the Birth of Organized Crime, 2006, etc.) brings moral outrage to this complex subject. "The execution of the innocent is not a chimera that troubles the imagination of the faint of heart," he writes. "It is part of a broken system of justice." Hardly rare, such occurrences have been documented since the early 1800s, but they seemingly spiked during the high-crime 1970s and '80s. In reading through the many cases of death row exoneration since 2002 alone, as well as earlier ones, it becomes clear that those who suffer wrongful convictions tend to be poor, black, mentally challenged, or a combination; generally, their initial counsel is inadequate, and only the intervention of appellate attorneys and nonprofits reveals appalling instances of prosecutorial malfeasance or investigatory incompetence. All this gives weight to Cohen's concern that the innocent have been executed. He begins by documenting two well-known cases where this almost certainly happened: Dennis Stockton of North Carolina and Cameron Todd Willingham of Texas. These set the grim tone for the case histories to follow, efficiently organized according to certain commonalities. Of these sections, the one dealing with official misconduct seems most ominous, focusing on stories like Chicago's notorious police torture ring, which ginned up death penalty cases against at least 10 men. Yet, eyewitness misidentification, forensic errors, flawed science, and an overreliance on compromised criminal informants have proven nearly as problematic. The litany of depressing, detailed case histories can become numbing, but Cohen's urgency doesn't flag as he returns to researchers' consensus that "about ten percent of the inhabitants of death row or inmates serving life sentences are innocent." A valuable accounting of a hidden societal plague, likelier to appeal to attorneys, students, and activists than to the police officers, prosecutors, and "tough on crime" types who should read it.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781632206466
Publisher:
Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date:
04/05/2016
Pages:
312
Sales rank:
453,422
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author


Stanley Cohen is a veteran award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. For more than fifty years, he has worked as an editor, writer, and reporter for newspapers, magazines, and an international news service. He also has taught writing, journalism, and philosophy at Hunter College. He lives in Tomkins Cove, New York.

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Convicting the Innocent: Death Row and America's Broken System of Justice 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous 8 days ago