A journalist and criminal defense lawyer combine their knowledge about wrongful convictions in Mississippi to expose a corrupt system, with a keen focus on a lying medical examiner and a dentist who concocted phony evidence based on bite marks on the bodies of crime victims.
The medical examiner is Steven Hayne; the dentist is Michael West. In the small world of detectives, lawyers, judges, and journalists trying to reduce the number of innocent citizens in prison, the perplexing rise to influence of co-conspirators Hayne and West is well-known, as is their eventual disgrace. But the saga has never been explored in such depth. Carrington devotes his life to freeing innocent inmates, serving as director of the Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Balko’s (Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, 2013) focus as a Washington Post opinion journalist and investigative reporter is more broad, but he has experience chronicling innocence cases. Although the authors have reported on many wrongful convictions, the book focuses heavily on two murder cases, both involving innocent men: Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, both of whom were exonerated after years in prison. Their exposé of systemic injustice across Mississippi goes beyond Hayne and West to name prosecutors, judges, legislators, and others who catered to them. Why cater to two such craven incompetents? Because those inside the criminal justice system were more interested in closing cases (usually with black defendants) than in identifying the actual perpetrators. Detectives, prosecutors, and judges intent on getting cases off the docket knew they could rely on Hayne and West to testify dishonestly under oath. The authors explain the motivations of Hayne and West: zealotry on the side of law enforcement, money for accepting a huge volume of cases to lie about in court under oath, and perhaps racism.
A horrifying exposé of how a few individuals can infect an entire state’s criminal justice system.