cover image Mean Justice: A Town's Terror, a Prosecutor's Power, a Betrayal of Innocence

Mean Justice: A Town's Terror, a Prosecutor's Power, a Betrayal of Innocence

Edward Humes / Author Simon & Schuster $26 (491p) ISBN 978-0-6

Humes (No Matter How Loud I Shout, etc.), a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, builds his condemnation of police corruption, prosecutorial misconduct and political pandering around an account of the successful prosecution of an apparently innocent man, Patrick Dunn, for murdering his wife in Kern County, Calif. It's a compelling narrative of a horrifying story. In describing the events surrounding the Dunn prosecution, Humes delves into the sordid history of Kern County, exposing a ruthless D.A.'s office, which conducted the equivalent of a modern-day witch hunt. Kern County, the site of many spurious child-molestation and Satanic ritual-abuse cases, emerges as a crossroads where the worst abuses of psychotherapy meet the worst excesses of rabid law-and-order conservatism. Humes recounts how literally dozens of people in Kern County have had their convictions overturned on appeal based on shocking prosecutorial abuses. The evidence assembled strongly suggests that prosecutors frequently knew of the defendants' innocence. As a result, Humes's exhaustive account of the unscrupulous Dunn prosecution makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that Dunn was innocent. Humes successfully weaves this story into an overall indictment of the criminal justice system by demonstrating the ease with which police, prosecutors and judges can manipulate the process to convict even the innocent. (Feb.)