Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongly Convicted
The justice system was created we thought to provide a legal arena for lawyers, prosecutors and defendants to present their case to a jury of their peers in order to decide whether they are guilty or innocent. Innocent: the person never committed the crime and yet what you are about to read within the pages of this book, as told 14 people wrongly convicted and accused, as you witness their incarceration, see their faces at the start of their stories and you the reader will look into the eyes of people the system failed. The statistics don’t lie, but often the arresting officers will create their own form of interrogation, disregard whether someone else committed the crimes, and hopefully get an arrest that will stick. All too often as you will learn when you read these accounts of what these people went through, the police and the prosecutors look no further at times when making a case stick and sending someone in one case to death row. Listen carefully as they relate their stories all 14 exonerated inmates as they are told and narrated to some have the most infamous and high profile mystery and thriller writers. Each one dictates their words, emotions run high and the end result you will learn as you read their stories as told to Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Phillip Margolin, Jan Burke and many others. How did these people survive what abuse, injustices, indignities and violence that each one endured in some way and come out able to move on with their lives. Many are still haunted by their experiences, others as you will learn when you read about Kirk Bloodsworth used his release and moved on to help others and those that have the courage to tell their stories reminding us that the criminal justice system is flawed and things need to be revamped, looked at and people should be given the chance to express their thoughts and words and someone needs to listen carefully. But, without the advent of DNA testing these people at the time of their arrests at no recourse at all. With Scott Turow and Barry Scheck writing the Forward and Introduction, each author tells the story in the voice of the wrongly accused as if it is an episode of a mystery/thriller with the wrong ending. The one common denominator that I see is the way the police handled each one of these people. The indignities were enormous, the abuse quite widespread and the type of questioning asked someone needed to really listen hard when they said: I know you committed this murder or crime and it will go easier on you if you confess. The badgering and the belligerent behaviors of those enforcing the law are inexcusable. As I read each case and heard the voices of those wrongly accused I had the decision to make as to which cases to spotlight when they all deserved equal time.
Kirk Bloodsworth’s story is the first one that I would like to spotlight. He read quite extensively about the DNA testing and hoping that it would help free this innocent man. Imagine what went through his mind when he was sentenced to death. Imagine what he went through to get freed. Lee Child tells this amazing story so vividly you relive it along with Mr. Bloodsworth. How do you life your life knowing that you won’t be around to bring up your own children? What do you do when a child is placed in your care, you realize that something is wrong with the child, you call 911 and then you are arrested for the child’s murder? How do you raise your children miles away and what happens when your husband does not want to bring them to visit you anymore? Gaye Lynds shares the story of Audrey Edmund’a heartbreaking arrest and release.
The lives of these people were saved by the Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardoza School of law. Those that are wrongly accused and convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. Their mission is to free, release innocent people who are still in jail and to bring reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment. They are a network a group of independent organizations that exonerate, and support the innocent, and redress the causes of wrongful conviction. Their mission is to free the huge number of innocent people who are still in jail, incarcerated and living their lives within the confines of a cell. Some with little air, no air conditioning, poor health conditions and the food at times not fit for anyone to eat. Added in the abuse taken by those that are supposed to protect them namely the guards and other officials who seek to win a case at anyone’s expense.
The photos of those released says it all but the anguish, the cruelties, the indignities and the evidence that was fabricated, not released and hidden to allow these people not to spend years of their lives in prison can only be described as you look into their faces now that they are free. Statistics are to blame and the justice system is not in favor of those accused even when as you will learn when you read these 14 cases that most were innocent, the evidence and eyewitnesses were in their favor, but DNA was not done, in some cases witnesses and snitches were paid off with money or a shorter sentence and innocent people suffered till this very day or minute. These men and women were housed in their cells for more than a decade and the crimes they supposedly committed dealt with murder or rape and murder. Sara Paretsky tells the story of a man threatened and tortured by Chicago PD and convinced, brainwashed and coerced into confessing and living in jail for 11 years. David Bates was the Illinois Exoneree and how can anyone imagine the circumstances whereby you would confess to a crime you did not commit. False confessions happen often as we learn more about this case and how interrogators are trained to keep suspects off balance and under the current rules, there are few restrictions on the lies that they tell their subjects, so all the following are entirely permissible, your companion confessed. There is physical evidence liking you to the scene and the most heinous lie of all if you say this, you will go home. Torture, tormenting and even using physical and psychological torture changes everything for the person wrongly accused. The crime was said to be committed by David Bates. Forced to go along with the police to the station to ask him some questions they assumed his guilt in the murder of Leon Barkan. Left alone for a long time, handcuffed and not understanding why the two officers thought he killed this man, he never saw it coming as they set up a ring in the wall as part of an organized setup for committing torture by Area Two detectives. The scene is graphically described as the placed a bag on his head, and the reaction of one of the officers reprehensible. Leaving him alone all he wanted to do was save himself but that was not to be. Within pages 22-24 you will witness what he endured and the powerless feeling he had. Twenty two or more detectives took part in torturing people in custody over a period of about 19 years. The explanations and how it changed is explained on pages 25-26 and the fact that he is a survivor and was finally released did not give him back the 11 years he lost. The Editor’s note dealing with DNA and many other explanations clarifies his predicament and explains how things needed to be changed and why. An army veteran was convicted of raping a child and even though he was misidentified by witnesses the terms racial discrimination and prejudice ring out loud. Author Laurie King explains even more. Ray Towler is an Ohio exoneree as the preface sates at the start of this case called The Evidence Closes in Trial by Laurie King everyone has seen trials on television, movies and read about them in books or newspapers where the truth is supposed to be discovered and justice dispensed. Ray Towler was in prison for a very long time this is his story. A young child points her finger at ray and it’s all over. How can they be so sure? Jennie and her boy cousin and two adults fingered him in the park. Each one pointing to them and the jurors cam and were sword in and the prosecutor gets up and relates what he states as the truth. The details are graphic and what it did to Ray cannot be described as he felt pain all over his body. By the time the third day came the results and answers that the witnesses gave would not change. When Ray came to have his picture taken after the traffic stop, he went along not knowing this would be the start of his downhill ride. The photo they took was shown to the kids but the end result is something about it did not match. When the judge speaks to him alone and convinces him to sign a plea nor did he have to testify in his own defense the end result is he lost. But, eventually DNA testing and the help of the Ohio Innocent Project teaming with Ray helped him to get the testing and be released. Twenty-eight years for a did not commit and a victim of several false witness identifications as poor legal representation. Read his story and the editor’s notes. From the estate of Arthur Miller we read an essay about Peter Miller. This is a compelling essay where Miller presents argument against the death penalty using this case against Miller, a teenager wrongfully convicted. Read pages 147= 153 and hear the voices of so many until Peter Reilly regains his freedom in Lichfield County because a prosecutor died at the right moment and because his neighbors believed in him and outsiders came to his aid. Read the reaction of his friends and what reporter Donald > Connery said in his article in 2013 in the Hartford Courant as he relates to what lengths his community went to bring him back home. The next story will get you cheering, clapping and high fiving when you read Staying on Track the Ginny Lefever story and finally the story told to Phillip Margolin by William Dillon titled The Bloody Yellow Shirt. How do you keep it all together and not lose sight of yourself and who you are? Listen to her voice and realize that her will to survive, use a simple walking track to bring her direction and help her get back in better shape, helped Ginny deal with the isolation and despair of being wrongly convicted. Accused of killing the husband she divorced the events are chilling the end result even more as he was taking antidepressants and when in the hospital the effects decreased. Using every motion, enlisting the help of the Ohio State University Alumni association’s website and a lot of ingenuity she was released in 2010. Read it and how she did it on pages 147-169. A chance meeting and fate or blind luck helped William Dillon. The body of a 40 year old man named James Dvorak was found in the brush near Canova Beach, Florida. On the day he was killed, John Parker picked up a hitchhiker near the beach. His description of the man sounded like William’s. But, he was not guilty and his casual girlfriend said she was with him but late but recanted her testimony less two weeks later because of a threat made to her. John Preston was broad into testify and help with the investigation but he proved to be a fraud and his reports were too. Learn more about DNA testing in Florida, learn what happens when an older man working as a law clerk in the prison guides Bill by explaining the forms needed to be filled out toe get DNA testing and the hope for freedom. With the aid of the Innocence Project of Florida officials determined that all of the physical evidence had been destroyed except for the yellow-T-Shirt. Learn why and how when you read this outstanding account told to Phillip Margolin. Every story describes to be spotlighted and every one of these 14 people deserves a lot more than just their freedom.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine