Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted

Jim Dwyer, Author, Peter Neufeld, Joint Author, Barry Scheck, Joint Author
Jim Dwyer, Author, Peter Neufeld, Joint Author, Barry Scheck, Joint Author Doubleday Books $27.5 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-49341-3
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-553-52694-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 432 pages - 978-0-451-20365-6
Paperback - 407 pages - 978-0-451-20982-5
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Scheck gained celebrity for his role in the defense of O.J. Simpson and the ""nanny trial"" of Louise Woodward. But most of his cases are unsung, and usually he gets involved later on, after a verdict of guilty has been handed down. He and partner Neufeld founded the Innocence Project to aid those who have been wrongly convicted--a failure of justice that occurs with frightening frequency, as documented in this startling expose. The Innocence Project alone has helped 43 wrongfully convicted persons--one was actually on death row for 12 years--gain their freedom, primarily through the use of new DNA techniques, which can be applied to old evidence (blood or, in the case of rape, semen). What Scheck, Neufeld and Pulitzer-winning Daily News columnist Dwyer offer here is a report on the many ways justice can go astray and an innocent person be convicted. Perhaps one of the more shocking of their revelations is the unreliability of eyewitness testimony; in addition to studies and statistics, they present a case in which three eyewitnesses separately identified the defendant as a rapist/robber: evidence uncovered by Scheck and Neufeld eventually exonerated him. Scheck and Neufeld offer a litany of such errors, along with detailed case histories: false ""confessions,"" fraudulent lab results, junk science (particularly the use of hair typing as evidence), prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate defense lawyering have all led to convictions of the innocent. The authors offer concrete advice on how these dangers can be minimized (e.g., videotaping all police interrogations to ensure confessions aren't forced). This is an alarming wake-up call to those who administer our justice system that serious flaws must be addressed to protect the innocent. Literary Guild featured selection. (Feb.)
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