The Wrong Men: America's Epidemic of Wrongful Death-Row Convictions

The Wrong Men: America's Epidemic of Wrongful Death-Row Convictions

by Stanley Cohen
     
 

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In January 2000, Illinois Governor George H. Ryan declared a moratorium on state executions. Three years later, Ryan commuted all Illinois death sentences to life imprisonment, saying, "Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error, error in determining guilt, and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die." This book chronicles over one

Overview


In January 2000, Illinois Governor George H. Ryan declared a moratorium on state executions. Three years later, Ryan commuted all Illinois death sentences to life imprisonment, saying, "Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error, error in determining guilt, and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die." This book chronicles over one hundred cases where journalism students, grassroots organizations, families, and pro bono lawyers—armed with DNA evidence and other instruments of justice—have defeated that demon. Cohen reveals how eyewitness error, jailhouse snitch testimony, racism, junk science, prosecutorial misconduct, and incompetent counsel have often populated America's death row with the wrong men. Readers embark on journeys with men who were arrested, convicted, sentenced to death, dragged through the appeals system, and finally set free based on their actual innocence. Some languished for decades in our death houses. Notable cases of wrongful imprisonment outside of death row are also profiled. Although these stories end with vindication, there are those that have ended with unjustified execution. The Wrong Men is sure to fuel controversy over a justice system that has delivered the ultimate punishment 820 times since 1976, though it cannot guarantee accurate convictions.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As the title suggests, Cohen (The Man in the Crowd) examines some 100 instances where people sentenced to death were later exonerated, most of them ultimately proven innocent of the crimes for which they were condemned. The capsule profiles of the exonerated are often too sketchy to be fully satisfactory. Still, Cohen makes his case that innocent people regularly receive death sentences merely through the cumulative effect of the stories. Cohen also analyzes the chief reasons why wrongful convictions occur so frequently. Eyewitness error is a prime factor, whether because of simple mistake or pressure from law enforcement officials. Again, prosecutors avid for convictions distort trials by inducing or winking at perjury or by suppressing evidence favorable to the accused. Other wrongful convictions are attributed to junk science, such as having witnesses' memories stimulated by amateur hypnotists. The author's explanations of these sources of capital error are straightforward and clarified by well-chosen examples. DNA analysis, as the book also explains, has become the main vehicle for exonerating the innocent, but in many cases no DNA evidence is available. Cohen believes the death penalty will soon be relegated to the "dark and distant past," and this volume is a convincing argument for the unreliability of capital convictions. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this expose, Cohen (The Man in the Crowd) presents over 100 accounts about men and women wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, including the stories featured in the stage play "The Exonerated" and the case of the Central Park jogger. Throughout, the stories not only reveal an inefficient and uncaring justice system that convicts on eyewitness errors, jailhouse snitches, racism, and incompetent counsel but also show that the justice system allows for exoneration. The problem is that the initiative must come from the outside. The men and women Cohen writes about were cleared of their charges by the efforts of journalism students, grassroots organizations, the families, and pro bono lawyers. In the end, the message is both dismal and upbeat: wrongful convictions happen startlingly often, but they can by overturned by the efforts of a concerned populace. This book is similar in scope to Taryn Simon's The Innocents but offers a more extensive text. On the other hand, Cohen's features some striking photography. Both titles are highly recommended, but either one is enough for a general collection.-Frances Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786712588
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
08/25/2003
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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