In 1896, the rural community of Bear River, Nova Scotia was confronted by the brutal murder of 14-year-old Annie Kempton. Suspicion falls on the town's only black inhabitant, the unfortunate Peter Wheeler. Unburdened by modern forensic science and innocent of basic concepts of proof or justice, Bear River falls on the designated scapegoat; despite procedural irregularities, and an extremely rickety circumstantial case, the accused is soon found guilty and condemned to death. Conviction is not the end of the matter; as Wheeler waits in his cell for execution, the press still obsesses on the case, creating their own fabricated confessions when Wheeler himself refuses to provide one. While the work is sometimes undermined by a too informal style, Komar, a forensic anthropologist (The Ballad of Jacob Peck), does a masterful work of detailing this old case, in particular, highlighting the role in the case of the mass media as it existed at the time. Nor is this presented as a judicial murder carried out by a single atypical isolated community; complicity extended all the way up to the federal government of the day. With a depressing number of parallels in the modern world, this work reminds us of a past shame. Agent: Carolyn Swayze. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/2014 Release date: 03/01/2014 Genre: Nonfiction
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