by Edward Humes ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 19, 1999
Grippingly written, compellingly told, Mean Justice makes other tales on the miscarriage of justice look like pleasant little fairy tales. In the legal world crafted by the founders of the Constitution, a series of checks and balances exist to ensure that innocent people don’t go to jail. The crater-size cracks in the criminal justice system today, however, are disturbingly clear in this page-turner by Pulitzer Prize—winning journalist Humes (No Matter How Loud I Shout, 1996; Mississippi Mud, 1994; etc.). Patrick Dunn is a retired school principal whose wife, Sandy, mysteriously disappears during one of her regular predawn walks. Although Dunn reports her missing, he becomes the prime suspect—indeed, the only suspect—based almost solely on a gut feeling by one of his closest friends, a younger woman who as an appointed official in Bakersfield, Calif., has the clout and stick-to-it-iveness to push the local police and district attorney’s office to go after Dunn. Not that they need much prodding. As Hume so carefully chronicles, this is a suburban town that already has a well-documented history of convicting innocent people and, worst of all, making these crimes stick for years. Bakersfield, after all, was one of America’s prosecutorial hot spots in seeking out supposed child molestation rings in the 1980s. Humes displays his award-winning style here as he lays out both Dunn’s sad tale—he is ultimately convicted with virtually no evidence pointing to him as the killer—and the background that so chillingly puts Dunn’s story into perspective. Especially distressing is Humes’s research indicating that cases such as Dunn’s are occurring with increasing frequency. Dunn, meanwhile, remains in jail. An eye-popping tale of justice miscarried that will shock anyone who believes our criminal justice system still works just fine.
Pub Date: Feb. 19, 1999
Page Count: 496
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999
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by David Grann ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
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National Book Award Finalist
Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.
During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Pub Date: April 18, 2017
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017
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by Truman Capote ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 7, 1965
"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.
Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965
Page Count: 343
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965
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