"CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE: Death, Life, and Justice in a Small Town" by Pete Earley

"CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE: Death, Life, and Justice in a Small Town"

Email this review


Sex, prejudice, murder, and lies are the familiar hinges to this gripping investigation into the deaths of two Alabama teenagers. Earley (The Hot House, 1992, etc.) has perhaps written the right book at the wrong time. Though these events took place in the mid-1980s, the cold-blooded killing of a lovely white girl, the arrest of a black man who claims to have been across town at the time of the incident, lengthy judicial proceedings, and possible law enforcement bunglings and cover-ups cannot help but conjure the ghost of Nicole Brown Simpson. And that is unfortunate, since this story has many important lessons of its own. Two girls are killed in a short period of time, but the case involving the bad girl from the broken family gets little attention from the police. Earley, writing with a perfect journalistic temperament, records the actions of not only the stereotypically corrupt lawmen seeking quick answers and reelection, but of those who attempt to play by the book and help a black suspect in a town where it is still sociopolitical suicide for a white family to invite a black man home for supper. At the heart of this book is the question of truth and perspective. Over the course of seven years, the two murders are investigated and reinvestigated, suspects are arrested and released, lives are destroyed, questions go unanswered, and the county electric chair, nicknamed Yellow Mama, waits like a shark for a certain kind of justice to be carried out. In the profusion of protagonists and motives in an ultimately unsolved crime, a key witness in the drama says it all: ""What the hell is the truth? It is whatever damn well the person listening to you wants to hear."" Death and capital punishment, southern style, and with all the trappings.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Bantam