OVERTURNING WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS

SCIENCE SERVING JUSTICE

So very rarely is anything perfect, but when the legal process malfunctions, the result can be the horror of unjust incarceration.

It is estimated that 2 to 5 percent of the American prison population—that is, 40,000 to 100,000 souls—are wrongly behind bars, writes veteran forensic scientist Murray. They are the victims of inept counsel, snitches looking for a payday, judges guilty of official misconduct (“such as bias, corruption, or incompetence”), police bullying, flawed or malicious testimony, and racial prejudice—what one attorney refers to as “legal lynching.” But since the late 1980s, a handful of exoneration organizations have worked to overturn wrongful convictions. As Murray writes, they principally address high-profile cases, such as murder and rape, where the consequences can be the death penalty; over the last 25 years, 1,400 men and women have been exonerated. Murray lays a solid foundation for readers, taking them through the legal system’s long road, from questioning all the way to appeal, while explaining how exoneration is achieved, mostly through DNA testing and fingerprints. More rarely it’s achieved by displaying overwhelming evidence of faulty prosecution (as she writes, “Grave mistakes are often the hardest to admit”). Of exonerated prisoners, notes Murray, the average age of incarceration is 27 and the average age of release is 42.

A chilling exposé. (Nonfiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2513-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Small but mighty necessary reading.

THE NEW QUEER CONSCIENCE

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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