The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South

Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington. PublicAffairs, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-1-61039-691-2
Investigative reporter Balko and former criminal defense lawyer Carrington offer a clear and shocking portrait of the structural failings of the U.S. criminal justice system in this account of two medical professionals—Steven Hayne, Mississippi’s “former de facto medical examiner,” and his friend Michael West, a forensic dentist—who, in turn, built successful careers off of a broken system. The book focuses on the doctors’ roles in the trials of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, who were both wrongly convicted of crimes involving the sexual assault and murder of minors in the 1990s (both men were exonerated in 2007). The authors methodically dissect the doctors’ testimonies in the trials of the two men and point to major flaws; such as when, during Brooks’s trial, Hayne asserted that marks on the corpse were definitely human bite marks, despite the condition of the body, which had been submerged in water and was badly decomposed. The authors make clear that these two false convictions resulted from the willingness of Mississippi authorities to overlook legitimate questions about the quality of Hayne’s and West’s work; for example, Hayne, who performed 80% of the state’s autopsies for more than two decades, once wrote that he had removed the uterus and ovaries from a male cadaver. This eminently readable book builds a hard-to-ignore case for comprehensive criminal justice reform. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
Release date: 02/27/2018
Compact Disc - 978-1-4789-9040-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-4789-9043-7
Ebook - 978-1-61039-692-9
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