Books by Jim Fisher

Released: Dec. 14, 1996

A gripping account of the serendipitous investigation that uncovers two miscarriages of justice that branded innocent boys as killers. While doing some unrelated research in 1989, criminology professor (Edinboro Univ.) and former FBI agent Fisher came across the case of 11-year-old Charlie Zubryd, who confessed to the hatchet murder of his mother Helen 28 months after its occurrence in 1956 in Sewickley Township, Penn. Inconsistencies in evidence reports, the delay in gaining a confession, and Fisher's doubt that an eight-year old could drive a hatchet five inches into a skull led Fisher to investigate. Eventually, he found that the boy had been coerced into his confession by an overzealous homicide detective—the same man who would oversee the false confession of a second minor, 13-year-old Jerry Pacek, in another woman's murder. Unsatisfied with demonstrating that the two boys were innocent, Fisher began hunting for the true killers; his findings comprise the last part of the book. As in his previous book (The Lindbergh Case, 1987), Fisher is deliberate in unraveling evidence: Conversations are recounted at length, evidence is carefully gathered and described. Zubryd and Pacek are victims of a manipulative, fame-seeking detective, but they are not presented as Victims of Society. Except for one transforming event that stole their childhood, they are men who would likely have lived out their lives without incident. Fisher's precise reporting also lends an effective sense of place: Descriptions of a funeral home, of houses, courts, and street corners, all conjure up mid-century Pittsburgh and the mill towns that surrounded it. While today's legal process often seems lost in loopholes and deals, this tale reminds readers that there really are miscarriages of justice. Fisher's righting of two terrible wrongs is a remarkable act of generosity; and his narrative of those events is haunting and worthwhile. (photos, not seen) Read full book review >