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Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  663 Ratings  ·  132 Reviews
Thebook that helped free an innocent man who had spent twenty-seven years on death row.

In January 1982, an elderly white widow was found brutally murdered in the small town of Greenwood, South Carolina. Police immediately arrested Edward Lee Elmore, a semiliterate, mentally retarded black man with no previous felony record. His only connection to the victim was having clea
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 21st 2012 by Vintage (first published February 1st 2012)
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Feb 25, 2012 Durwood rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1-kindle, true-crime
Do not read this book unless you are prepared to have your views on the death penalty and our American justice system challenged. This is a powerful story of a South Carolina murder trial where planted evidence and perjury were used to convict and sentence to death a mentally retarded African American man; it's the story of inept defense lawyers and a politically driven "justice" system which rewards winning over fairness and truth - even when a man's life is at stake. This journey through our c ...more
Jul 12, 2014 Eric_W rated it it was amazing
I remember sitting in school in 7th grade, counting down the seconds to the execution of Caryl Chessman. I was not one of those who cheered when the clock struck the hour. I think even at that age, I was uncomfortable with the whole idea of the state killing someone. Today I’m against capital punishment for most situations, partly because I’m come to realize how incompetent the state and justice system usually are and that most punishment in this country, at least, has less to do with justice th ...more
Feb 10, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing
I read it in two nights. It blew me away. ANATOMY OF INJUSTICE is about the murder of an elderly white woman in Greenwood, South Carolina in 1982. The crime is described in harrowing detail. The police arrested a simpleminded black man named Edward Lee Elmore and he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in a matter of weeks. It's hard to read these chapters without tears. After years of ineptitude, appeals, setbacks, and meanness, an unlikely hero emerges in the struggle to win justice fo ...more
Darcia Helle
Jun 06, 2014 Darcia Helle rated it it was amazing
I read a lot about the injustices of our "justice" system, so I did not expect to be all that surprised by the details in this book. I was, in fact, shocked. The enormity of corruption and prejudice, from the police to the lawyers (both prosecution and so-called defense) and right to the judge, is just appalling.

While the initial trial was a farce, what really struck me hard were the hurdles and blockades involved in obtaining a new, fair trial. Once a person has been convicted, the system want
This was one of those books that I wanted to throw at the wall every 5 minutes. But not in a bad way -- there was nothing wrong with the book itself! Rather, it was the subject matter that was incredibly frustrating at times, because the issues involved in Elmore's story are issues I care deeply about.

I think this is a book that anybody who is interested in our criminal justice system, or in law, or basically just society at all should read.

I should add, as a sort of disclaimer, that prior to s
Kressel Housman
Apr 30, 2015 Kressel Housman rated it it was amazing
In these days, when police brutality, inequality, and reactions to them are tearing our country apart, this book is especially relevant. The focus is the courts, not the police, but in telling the story of the miscarriage of justice perpetrated against Edward Elmore, a retarded African American man convicted of the murder of his employer, it exposes some of the corruption and prejudice in law enforcement as a whole. “Anatomy” is an apt word for the title because the author dissects the evidence ...more
Sep 12, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I keep picking up or listening to Death Penalty cases lately, but this book should really get more than 5 stars because it changed and changes lives. This is an incredibly powerful book. The title nails the subject matter exactly. Raymond Bonner examines very closely the case of Edward Lee Elmore from beginning to end (almost as there is a final update this spring). This case has about everything that could possibly be wrong with American justice and almost nothing that is right ...more
Khris Sellin
Dec 04, 2016 Khris Sellin rated it it was amazing
Another sad story of an innocent man stuck on death row for decades. There are far too many of these cases, but this one is particularly infuriating because of the blatant racism, the lies, the planted evidence, the lost evidence, the defense attorney who did no work and put up no defense, and the prosecutors and judges who, repeatedly, ignored the facts and evidence and denied this man true due process and justice. Until Diana Holt and her team stepped in, finally giving him reason to hope.
Scott Wilson
Mar 05, 2013 Scott Wilson rated it really liked it
I read this last spring but had forgotten about it (and wasn't doing much with Goodreads at the time) until I saw the new movie West of Memphis last week. The cases are different, but the struggles are similar. Most striking is the fact that proving a conviction to have been false -- to say nothing of trying to prove innocence -- requires untold hours, money and determination. There's no conspiracy quite so potent as massed incompetence and the collective institutional will to protect its result ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Anatomy of Injustice: a Murder Case Gone Wrong,by Raymond Bonner, Narrated by Mark Bramhall, Produced by Blackstone Audio, Downloaded from

When the governor of Illinois put a moratorium on putting criminals on death row to death due to alarming statistics in Illinois showing that several were innocent, and when Governor George Bush of Texas, the state with the most criminals put to death, said that he had no reason to think that innocent people were being put to death in Texas, the N
Edward Lee Elmore was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to die for the murder of Dorothy Ely Edwards and elderly rich white widow. The only connection the police had was a check made out to Elmore and his fingerprint on a windowsill. Since Elmore had down handyman work for Edwards this was not surprising, the police and prosecuting attorney decided it did.

Elmore was a poor young black man of limited education and intelligence, combined with the ineptness of his attorneys' incompetence, a
May 05, 2012 Wanda rated it really liked it
Similar in a way to Grisham's The Innocent Man, this is a story of justice gone astray. Actually the death penalty is not so much about justice, as it is about revenge. If you still believe in the death penalty after reading this book, then nothing will persuade you. To think that such irresponsible legal and police procedural shenanigans could occur in the U.S. is truly a sobering (and depressing) thought. The manner in which this case and others described in the book were handled by the partie ...more
Sep 07, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
A fantastic, fast, and accessible narrative of the racial inequities of the criminal justice system, especially in capital cases and especially in the South. The book's events unfold not during the Jim Crow era, but over 1982-2012; it's depressing and enraging how racial prejudice remains alive and well. Even more depressing and enraging is the role played by numerous appellate and state supreme court justices-- one might expect the police and prosecutors to plant evidence to frame a black man, ...more
Mar 06, 2012 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Anatomy of Injustice" explores the case of a death row inmate in South Carolina, who as a young black man, was convicted of murdering a elderly white woman. Ultimately, an appeal was filed by a young attorney, Diana Holt, who came upon his case and discovered injustice, incompetence, and corruption in his case.

Holt's battle against injustice is both enlightening and engaging, and like Scott Turow's book "Ultimate Punishment", provides a critical look at the often unfair application of the deat
Jan 07, 2013 Gale rated it it was amazing
This true-crime book centers around the murder of a well-to-do single, white, older woman in a small town. The man immediately accused is her black, slightly retarded, handyman. It takes us through 3 trials, appeals, and 38 years of this innocent man who is sentenced immediately to the death penalty. While h
all his lawyer's many reasonable attempts to free him are continually going on, he sees about 30 other inmates who also got "the electric chair" get executed and saw a couple prisoners exoner
Lee Anne
Although the story is compelling and horrifying--an elderly white woman is brutally murdered in her home, and an innocent, mildly retarded African-American man who had done a scant amount of handywork for her is charged--Bonner's writing is dry and dull. I found myself skimming through the second half, only to find the ending was anti-climactic: yes, Edward Lee Elmore was removed from Death Row after nearly thirty years, but he was still not exonerated and remained in jail. Since this book has b ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Ann rated it it was amazing
I rate a book 5 stars when it gives me something to think about and something to Google. This should really get more than 5 stars because it changed lives. It is the story of the prejudice, corruption and incompetence rampant in the deep south 40 years ago. A poor, retarded, black handyman was sentenced to death after an elderly white woman was murdered. There was no real evidence and no motive. But the community was eager for a conviction and he had cleaned her gutters leaving fingerprints behi ...more
Jun 03, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it
Amazingly gut-wrenching true account of Edward Lee Elmore, an innocent man convicted of murder, and the lawyer who has spent much of her life working for his freedom. More heartbreaking than the fact that an innocent man has spent 3 decades of his life in jail--much of it on death row--is the fact that thousands of people, perhaps millions, have "assumed" his guilt based on what the inept and corrupt lawyers in one small town put forth as truth. Even the coroner based her results on what one man ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
This book reads like a layman's parody of small-town Southern justice -- the grizzled D.A. who runs everything; the good old boys network springing into action by planting evidence and then playing CYA; the public defenders who failed to ask questions even I without my law degree would have known to ask -- except the stakes are deadly serious and this kind of stuff could well be happening (and likely is) in towns all across America.

When you read about opposition to the death penalty, remember, i
Apr 22, 2012 Shawn rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book: topic is right down my alley, and Bonner has a wonderful reputation. But the prose is really leaden, and the whole book seems to lack much in the way of narrative flair.
Edward Weiss
Aug 31, 2016 Edward Weiss rated it really liked it
Upon starting this book, I felt a memory tug. I couldn't quite put a handle on it, but then it came to me. it was this case that lost me a job i really didn't care about having, it was just the best of not so many good ones, and sent me to Europe and several life altering events. (See short-story at end of review.)
The book, however, besides being an excellent rendition of a woman's passion and obsession, i guess, is a great example of why I am and always have been, and why should be if you're al
Sarah Beth
Mar 22, 2016 Sarah Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This work of non-fiction uncovers a case of the judicial system gone horrifically wrong. In 1982, an elderly white widow was found murdered in her home in Greenwood, South Carolina. Edward Lee Elmore, a black man with intellectual disabilities was quickly arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death within ninety days. His only connection to the killer was cleaning her gutters and windows some days before her death. Eleven years after Elmore was sent to death row, a young lawyer, Diana Hol ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Marfita rated it it was ok
Shelves: tbg
Bonner does a good job of making a case for the innocence of Elmore ... until he gets to the end. But whether Elmore was guilty (Where's the motive?) or not, he was definitely framed, fitted up, and railroaded to a death penalty. I'm one of those bleeding-heart liberals who thinks it's cheaper, easier to convict, and less dehumanizing of society in general to just incarcerate for life than kill even a guilty person. Okay, maybe that's not very "bleeding heart" of me and reveals my conservative b ...more
Feb 24, 2013 Ron rated it really liked it
After reading this brilliant book one has to come to grips with the use of the death penalty in the United States. Edward Lee Elmore was given a death sentence by a state court where there was absolutely no evidence linking him to the crime. His court appointed attorneys were unbelievably incompetent. The Prosecutor and the State of South Carolina's crime lab knowingly withheld exculpatory evidence. The state's local judicial system was corrupted by racial prejudice. Edward Lee Elmore is now ser ...more
Ciara Dockham
Dec 14, 2016 Ciara Dockham rated it really liked it
This book is hard to get into- but once you do it's great!
May 04, 2013 Judith rated it liked it
Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong by Raymond Bonner follows the case of Edward Lee Elmore, a mentally retarded African American who supported himself doing odd jobs in Greenwood, South Carolina. When an elderly white lady was found beaten bloody and murdered in her home in 1982, the (white) neighbor who found the body directed police to examine a number of things, including her checkbook. There a check written to Elmore, who had cleaned gutters at the lady’s house recently, led them ...more
Uwe Hook
May 28, 2016 Uwe Hook rated it really liked it
This is an account of a murder in Greenville, S.C. in January 1982. An elderly widow living alone was murdered and her neighbor quickly pointed the police to a 23-year-old black man who sometimes worked for her, Edward Elmore. He was quickly charged though the evidence against him was thin. He went to jail, was quickly tried , poorly defended,, and convicted and sentenced to death. The conviction was reversed on appeal but he was tried again, with the same incompetent defense counsel, and again ...more
Lynn Pribus
May 10, 2014 Lynn Pribus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult book to read because of the subject matter, but certainly not because of the writing. It's well researched, and performed very nicely too.

The rulings of judges defies belief and at one point, actual provable innocence in deemed insufficient cause to prevent an execution since the jury had decided the person was guilty.

On a TV show, the good guys would have surreptitiously gathered DNA from the son of the deceased neighbor they suspected of being the true murderer, but that never happ
May 26, 2014 Alison rated it liked it
Anatomy of Injustice is a true story of a man accused, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly woman.

I have read several true crime books, and I enjoy reading about people who defend death penalty inmates. The first time I read a book similar, I was astonished and, quite frankly, embarrassed by the legal system in the US.

While Bonner provides a wealth of information on the case itself, all of the trials, and the egregious errors made by the police, prosecuting attorneys,
Jun 13, 2015 Q rated it liked it
The author Bonner did a very good job telling this true story. A little slow at first but picked up and then it was hard to put down. I learned a lot about the death penalty. I applaud the attorneys who stayed with Elmore thru 40 years to get him a fair trial. The way Elmore was treated by SC judiciary was downright appalling. They were totally negligent in their treatment of this simple man. The racial prejudice was downright disgusting - in some ways as if the civil war had never happened. Now ...more
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After graduating from Stanford Law School and serving in the U. S. Marine Corps (including a tour in Vietnam), Raymond Bonner practiced public interest law for several years before turning to journalism. He has been a foreign correspondent and investigative reporter for The New York Times, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and has written for The New York Review of Books. He has reported from more ...more
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