A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice and Freedom

Brittany K. Barnett. Crown, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-9848-2578-0
A crusading lawyer battles unfair sentences meted out in the “war on drugs” in this passionate memoir. Barnett, an attorney and cofounder of the Buried Alive Project, recounts her successful struggle to win presidential clemency for Sharanda Jones, a Texas restaurateur and mother sentenced in 1999 to life in prison without parole on a first-time, nonviolent drug-trafficking charge, as well as other federal prisoners. Barnett’s clients participated in trafficking to some extent, but prosecutors, she contends, abused their power by exaggerating her clients’ offenses, adding unjustified charges to pressure defendants to make plea deals and falsely accuse others, and using vague “conspiracy” charges to tie peripheral figures like Jones to serious crimes by major dealers. These were compounded by mandatory federal sentencing rules that levied much harsher penalties for dealing crack cocaine than for powder cocaine, which, Barnett argues, reflected racial bias against black defendants. Entwined with the legal battles is the author’s life story, including being physically abused by a drug-dealing boyfriend and her mother’s addiction and prison stint for crack possession. An engrossing legal drama complete with wrenching reversals and redemptions, this account richly humanizes defendants while incisively analyzing deep flaws in America’s justice system. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/17/2020
Release date: 06/16/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-9848-2579-7
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-9848-2580-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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