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Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong
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Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  136 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
On January 20, 1984, Earl Washington--defended for all of forty minutes by a lawyer who had never tried a death penalty case--was found guilty of rape and murder in the state of Virginia and sentenced to death. After nine years on death row, DNA testing cast doubt on his conviction and saved his life. However, he spent another eight years in prison before more sophisticate ...more
Hardcover, 367 pages
Published April 4th 2011 by Harvard University Press
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James Huston
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book written by a UVA law professor who reviewed the first 250 cases in which people were exonerated after DNA testing confirmed they were not guilty. It is extremely well written, easy to read, organized, and compelling. Garrett points out problems with our criminal justice system that are systemic, and not limited to a small number of cases where convictions have been overturned. Like a police officer knowing who the suspect is in a lineup. Like not recording interrogations ...more
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Altered my world view

This book has shaken me and radically altered my world view. At fifty, it's rare to undergo such a paradigm shift, but this book has opened my eyes. Though I've nothing to do with our justice system (I'm an average Jane), I CANNOT recommend this book HIGHLY ENOUGH, I hope EVERYONE reads it.

I've gone through my life blissfully unaware of the inherent weaknesses of our justice system. I've trusted that our American courts are fair, that we are innocent until proven guilty, and
E. Wood
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Garrett's analysis of how innocent people end up on Death Row ought to be required reading for detectives, prosecutors and judges throughout the U.S. Particularly compelling is the fact that a significant percentage of these injustices result from false confessions, usually by young or mentally vulnerable suspects.

The catalogue of flawed investigations and dishonest police/prosecutor conduct found in these pages is sickening. In a nation where millions can invest themselves emotionally in the fa
Oct 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Highly informative and containing information every American should know, but reads like an academic paper. A dry academic paper. Definitely look up the stats, encourage better line up and interrogation procedures in your local law enforcement (double-blind sequential line-ups and videotaped interrogations to be more specific), lobby for tighter regulation/audits of forensic labs, and work to get more funding for public defenders.
Mary Whisner
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
You've heard of people who were shown by DNA evidence to be innocent of the crimes they were imprisoned for. How can that happen? What can we learn from it?

Prof. Brandon Garrett (with the help of a team of research assistants) found out all he could about the first 250 DNA exonerations, gathering trial transcripts (when available), news coverage, appellate records, and the records from state post-conviction proceedings and federal habeas cases. Then he mined the data: How many of the exonerated
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Reviewing how hundreds of people who, DNA evidence subsequently showed, were wrongly convicted seems like a plausible basis for a book. Both the writing and the goals here drain that potential, though. Garrett tries to make broad statements about the American criminal justice system in ways that his evidence is not well equipped to support: in research-design jargon, he has "selected on the dependent variable," which is generally a fallacious way to try to build conclusions. Perhaps worse from a ...more
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as a student in the Master's of Science in Fraud and Forensics program at Carlow University []. This book is well written and extremely interesting. The stories of the 250 exonerees and their cases are gripping and chilling. I liked Garrett's use of the case studies to better explain how problems such as forced confessions, contaminated evidence, inadequate legal representation and flawed judicial reviews lend themselves to wrongful convic ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book should be (and probably will be soon) mandatory reading for lawyers, especially anyone who practices criminal law. Garrett has put together a phenomenal study of 250 bona fide wrongful convictions, and he examines how each case went wrong. Garrett concludes that the major problems are in the procedures used for obtaining confessions, eyewitness identification, and forensic analysis. What's really amazing, though, is that the problems in each of these areas can be significantly ameliora ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it liked it
This book has a great premise, and a lot of good information, but the writing style irritated me. I think it would have benefited from another round of heavy editing to get rid of the multiple instances of annoying phrases like "I'll explain in Chapter X" or "As demonstrated in more depth in Chapter Y". Just get to the point - I don't need that much hand-holding.

I also thought that the author should have used his sample for the big picture, but gone a lot more into depth on the cases he chose to
Eddie Ashcroft
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I found this a very interesting book, although at times it was a bit like reading a textbook. A wide range of issues were highlighted through case studies. We like to think our justice system is unbiased, has a high level of integrity and can be relied on provide a just outcome. Whilst we don't suffer from rampant corruption, this book highlights that like doctors and the rest of the community, the legal profession and police are not infallible. Political pressures, economics, time constraints, ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent study of the first 250 DNA exonerations in the United States, going over the types of evidence that contributed to the wrongful convictions and what reforms would make wrongful convictions less likely. It particularly covers eyewitness misidentification, invalid forensic evidence, informant testimony, and false confessions. Studies like this are important, because a lot of what they discover is not intuitive. Judges and juries need to be aware that someone can be sincerely c ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: crime writers
This is a great book if you're interested in the whole area of wrongful conviction and exoneration (all you Serial podcast listeners!). It is NOT scintillating reading but rather a quite technical examination of how wrongful convictions happen (flawed forensics, bad or corrupt lawyers/judges, psychological reality of eyewitness testimony, police interviewing techniques etc.). What I liked about it was the thorough documentation and the referencing of both the law and the science. What I didn't l ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in criminal justice reform
Recommended to Nita by: My brother, James W. Huston
This is an outstanding book, written by University of Virginia Law professor Brandon Garrett, who is one of the most important scholars in criminal justice. He exposes most of what is wrong with the criminal justice system, such as poor police and prosecutorial procedures that lead to the convictions of innocent people. A few examples, from the book: coerced or false confessions, faulty eyewitness testimony, tainted identifications, plea bargains by innocent people made out of fear, etc. Anyone ...more
Pete Combe
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
A decent read which hi lights problems in criminal prosecutions but has two main issues: First, no analytics or hard data to substantiate that the problems of false convictions are as prevalent as the author contends. Second, most of the problems seem to be the results of bad actors, as opposed to flawed systems. These call into question the need for the sweeping changes recommended as opposed to more focused reforms.
Tom Mueller
[Exonerating] "DNA evidence . . . changes the theory of how they committed the crime." (NYT Magazine. November 27, 2011. p. 6). eg. Heather Staker was raped and murdered in 1992. 19 year old Juan Rivera was convicted, in three trials. 2005 DNA evidence proves it was not his semen; prosecutors now claim that 11 year old Heather was having sex with another man, and subsequently murdered by Juan.
Sharon Darrow
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by a Superior Court Judge. It is absolutely riveting, and an amazing education about our justice system. If you have ever thought that if someone was arrested, he must be guilty, or that a case must be a slam-dunk because of eyewitness testimony, think again. If more people read this, perhaps we would do a better job from all sides.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very good summary of 250 cases that were exonerated from DNA evidence (rape or murder. Presents a number of SIMPLE reforms that can be done to prevent errors. Also brings up the fact that this is all human, there is no electronic / automated steps and that at each step contaminated evidence can occur and it is very very hard to correct.
Jan 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was picked by one of our book club members. I could not get into it. I felt like I was reading an encyclopedia. The information conveyed only reinforced to me how crooked our justice system is. Similar to another reader I felt the author could have given more details about the convicted - their story was so brief. I give this book a thumbs down. It was boring and flat.
Channin Murphy
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Enlightening book and well worth reading. It is frightening how easy a wrongful conviction can happen and how helpless these "defendants" really are. In addition to wrongful convictions, laws are unfair. A man with money, accused of rape can get off with a slap on the wrist but a man with out money accused of rape can get a life sentence. Changes need to be made in our broken judicial system.
Jeremy Stock
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Garrett does a great job of shedding some light on why and how our justice system can be and too often is wrongly convicting innocent people.

Please inform yourself- this is happening too regularly all across this country.
Alexandria Remillard
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Had to read it for my court systems class. Loved it. The information came as a complete shock to me. I know everything has flaws but I didn't know the extent. So many mistakes that could have been prevented that would have exculpated the defendants! Disappointing.
Tri-State Freethinkers Book Club
Mike Wu
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good, important substance, but still a little on the dry side.
Mark Flowers
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This gets perhaps a bit repetitious but it is still essential reading. More thoughts on my blog here:
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
250 wrong-man noirs rolled into one work of jaw-dropping legal scholarship.
Caitlin Dunnington
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Aug 06, 2016
Gregg Jamback
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Jun 09, 2011
Donna Luu
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Jan 03, 2013
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Nov 13, 2013
Andrew MacKie-Mason
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Dec 25, 2011
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