A chilling cautionary tale that says reams about the true state of justice in America. Those who think racism and corruption are simply the stuff of prime-time TV will think twice after reading Protess and Warden’s latest journalistic endeavor. Here the coauthors of the Edgar-nominated Gone in the Night: The Dowaliby Family’s Encounter with Murder and the Law (1994) chronicle the depressing story of four African-American men who spend a combined total of 64 years in Illinois prisons (two on death row) for a crime they did not commit, then are finally set free. Larry Lionberg and Carol Schmal were a young white Chicago couple engaged to be married when they were abducted in 1978 from a filling station after a botched robbery. Lionberg was executed. Schmal was shot in the head after being gang-raped by the robbers. Dennis Williams, Kenny Adams, Willie Rainge, and Verneal Jimerson were picked up for the crime shortly after and eventually were found guilty, despite their repeated pleas of innocence, alibis from their mothers, and a lack of physical evidence. Protess (Journalism and Urban Affairs/Northwestern Univ.) and Warden (former publisher of the Chicago Lawyer) learn of the men’s plight after Williams, aware of their interest in miscarriages of justice, forwards to them some of the details behind his frame-up. And what details they are: inept defense lawyers, perjured testimony, police cover-ups. Protess and Warden take on the case, not only proving the men’s innocence but also solving the crime. Written as if it were unfolding at this moment, the tale is made all the more spellbinding by the fact that such misfortune could happen anywhere. A frightening look at the ineptitude and racism that too often skew the justice system.