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The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South

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4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,956 ratings  ·  475 reviews
After two three-year-old girls were raped and murdered in rural Mississippi, law enforcement pursued and convicted two innocent men: Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks. Together they spent a combined thirty years in prison before finally being exonerated in 2008. Meanwhile, the real killer remained free.
The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist chronicles how the courts and Mi
...more
Hardcover, 391 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by PublicAffairs
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Russty Though the main 2 cases presented are from MS, there are several other cases of injustice cited from other states, as well!!!
Russty He wrote the Foreword and is a contributor / supporter of the Innocence Project!!!

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Debra
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
- James Baldwin, No name in the Street

This is a very sobering book about how racism, bad forensics, institutionalization and a faulty criminal justice system in Mississippi put hundreds of innocent people behind bars.

Two three-year-old girls were taken from their homes, sexually assaulted and murdered in rural Mississippi. Of course, this was an outrage, but what is also a crime is that
...more
Julie
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington is a 2018 Public Affairs publication.

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it”- Flannery O’Connor

This book is shocking me, yet, it doesn’t shock me. I know our system has its flaws, that each state has their own peculiar laws and that corruption reigns supreme everywhere. I’ve been reading about the wrongfully convicted since the early eightie
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Diane S ☔
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
3.5 "Our society has a high degree of confidence in it's criminal trials, in no small part because of the Constitution offers unparalleled protections against convictions of the innocent."
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

If one can believe this after watching the news, or reading the newspapers, seeing those freed from death row or imprisoned, often for twenty years or more, you won't after reading this book. And if you do I have some land in Florida I can sell to you for a good price.

Seriously thou
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Liz
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, nonfiction

One of the key necessities in determining the facts of a crime is in making the story fit the evidence, not the evidence fit the story. This book shows how a complex system of corrupt or stupid attorneys, judges, policemen, a coroner and a dentist managed to convict a number of innocent people In Mississippi over several decades. It boggles the mind that this was allowed to go on for so long.

Mississippi has consistently ranked near the bottom of the country when it comes to education and govern
...more
megs_bookrack
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Centering around the wrongful conviction cases of two men, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, The Cadaver King and Country Dentist examines the horrifying, modern-day injustices put forth by the courts and death investigation units within the state of Mississippi.

Stemming back to two men, Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, who used faulty science and misleading proclamations in order to gain convictions, this book shines a glaring light on systemic issues within the criminal justice system.

Alt
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Beata
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Indeed and without doubt" this book IS exceptional. Recently quite a few books have been published on injustice done to people wrongfully accused of committing crimes. Here we are given some explanation how such tragedies may happen. ...more
Valerity (Val)
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a sad and tragic retelling of the story about a pair of so-called doctors in Mississippi who got involved in the court system as professional testifiers. The first one is the prolific Dr. Steven Hayne. He had lined himself up to be in a position to be doing an incredible 80% of the state's autopsies when he already had 2 full-time jobs to do. Plus lab work, testifying, private autopsies, and other duties. Not to mention that when the recommended number of per year is 350 to keep from ov ...more
Joey R.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist” is a very well researched look inside the world of forensic pathology and bite mark analysis within the criminal justice system of Mississippi. The book focuses on forensic pathologist Steven Hayne and bite mark examiner Michael West who provided highly suspect testimony for years that led to the conviction of multiple innocent people in Mississippi. The authors’ focus is on two cases in which the two experts’ testimony led to the conviction of 2 innoce ...more
♥ Sandi ❣
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who cherishes their freedom
4 1/2 stars

This book is really hard for me to review. I have been mad at books before, have had a book that actually gave me nightmares, and have had books that gave me doubt - but this particular one scared the hell out me. It points out that we are not always in control of our lives. Not in a sci-fi way, this book is a non-fiction book - but in the way that our families, our freedoms and our futures can be taken away - at the drop of a hat - for absolutely no fault of our own, whatsoever.

This
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Darcia Helle
This book is a comprehensive, incredibly well researched exploration of the intertwining of politics, law, justice/injustice, and racism in the deep south.

I read a lot of true crime and sociology, but I've never read a book that explores corruption within our legal system in regards to our coroners and medical examiners. I'm embarrassed to admit that I never considered this angle. The science, we like to think, should be the trustworthy aspect of our justice system. Radley Balko shows us, witho
...more
Paula W
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Who knew that my first 5 star read of the year would come so early, and that it would be nonfiction? I certainly wouldn’t have believed it if you told me. Bear with me, Goodreads friends, because this might be the longest review I’ve ever written. I’ll explain why at the end.

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South is named after two famous doctors in Mississippi (I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs) but mostly centers around two black men in ru
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Christine
Re-read for school. Book works really well for college students

You will never look at science the same way after reading this book. Even if you know that the shows like C.S.I. are science fairy tales what Balko and Carrington chronicle isn't so much a miscarriage of justice but a deliberate hoodwinking by a group of men (the two in the title are the most important but hardly the only ones) who didn't give a damn about the truth because those accused were poor, or black or the forgotten or all th
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Cynda
I started out being excited to read this book. I had lived in Mississippi in the 1980s, about the time in the historical narrative of this text really should getting interesting. But doesn't. Largely not well written.

Let's start with What Did Work.

1. The Preface has important information explaining how policework is botched, how the legal system is imperfect, how innocent people can be convicted of murder.

2. The Author Notes are bit long, but give a good and full view of why the writers write
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Josh
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
"It's often said that the wheels of justice grind slowly. That isn't always true. When it comes to convicting people, they can move pretty swiftly. It's when the system needs to correct an injustice--admit its mistakes--that the gears tend to sputter to a halt." ...more
Irene
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the later decades of the 20th century, Michael West, a self-proclaimed bite expert and pioneer in other bogus forms of pattern recognition, and Steven Haynes, an uncredentialed and untrained coroner, defrauded a gullible Mississippi judicial court system, condemned numerous innocent people to prison, even the death penalty, and cheated Mississippi citizens of a small fortune in tax dollars. Although this book starts with the history of racial injustice in Mississippi, racism did not appear to ...more
Thomas
This makes me sad. The book deserves more than three stars. Consider this a three and a half star review.

This is about justice denied, for who knows how many people, by a system set up to protect a monstrously evil racial caste system and was then turned to other uses, such as making slimy politicians rich on the backs of the poor and downtrodden.

It’s depressing to think how easy it was for a couple of con artists to use a system which then used them back.

One can never point the finger at a si
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Siria
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
As someone who was raised Catholic and taught by nuns, my abiding problem is always figuring out how not to be overwhelmed by shame and guilt. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist explores what happens when you've got a legal system run by people who are seemingly incapable of feeling either emotion. Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington analyse the wrongful murder convictions of two Black men in a small Mississippi town in the early 1990s. Their respective convictions, and the fact that they s ...more
Traci at The Stacks
Jul 18, 2019 rated it liked it
So interesting and well researched. Really brings to light many issues with the criminal justice system in America. The writing is straightforward and easy to follow. Though I did get bored at times and/or couldn’t follow the chapter breaks. But overall very good.
Clare
Listened to in audio format.

DNF

This book is undoubtedly well researched but it is a bit heavy going for me.
Mark
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
“A study of Mississippi death investigations from 1981 through 1984 showed staggeringly high rates of deaths classified as “undetermined causes.” In DeSoto County, for example, the rate was 53 percent. In Benton County, it was 70 percent. The average across the country is around 3 percent.” 

“The Mississippi system was run by the triumvirate for years,” says one long-serving former coroner. “Imagine that. A pathologist, a small-town dentist, and a funeral director.… The state provided an audienc
...more
Stephanie
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
This is one of those books that can really rip the blinders off. Honest and objective, not only to our justice system but to the scientific realm as well. I was blown away by this account of the criminal justice system in Mississippi.

Listen - as much as we are drilled to believe that our system is righteous and without fault - it's completely false. There are so many faults with our system - and much has to do with politics and perceptions. We want our local entities to solve crimes and put the
...more
Janet
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher -
After two three-year-old girls were raped and murdered in rural Mississippi, law enforcement pursued and convicted two innocent men: Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks. Together they spent a combined thirty years in prison before finally being exonerated in 2008. Meanwhile, the real killer remained free.
The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist chronicles how the courts and Mi
...more
Jerome
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: true crime, social science, nonfiction
What is an acceptable failure rate for the death penalty? A quote from the deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a 2006 decision (Kansas v. Marsh) notes that "the possibility that someone will be punished mistakenly . . . is a truism, not a revelation." But this book leads the reader to confront the fact that innocent people, people who were exonerated by DNA evidence, were on Death Row. In 1998, one out of 7 people on Mississippi's Death Row were provably innocent. This book is both ...more
Ctgt
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Let's see if this sounds familiar......politicians and law enforcement officials using, and at times subverting the system to obtain the necessary "forensic evidence" for a conviction. Sounds like something right out of Jim Crow south in the early/mid parts of the 20th century. However, this book covers a much more recent timeline 80's, 90's and even into the early 2000's.
The first third of the book discusses the history of the coroner, and later the medical examiner and shed some light on how t
...more
Kirsty416
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading in law school and police academies across the country! These profound injustices occurred in very, very recent history.....terrifying. In the era of Chump as president this all seems the more possible right now in our country. Grandiose narcissist convincing otherwise reasonable people to give them all the power but not be subject to societal rules. Truly soul haunting. I am retired from a large west coast police department and I worked homicide the last few ...more
Donald Powell
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent dissertation on the use of science in Courts. The focus was on outrages in Mississippi and criminal prosecutions. The book also seriously challenges the procedural laws surrounding appeals, particularly as it relates to the inevitable refinement of science and forensics in particular. It is also an expose on "the good 'ole boys'" network of how the "justice" system works. Everyone should read this to see how our humanity tends to operate in the real world when trying to dispense jus ...more
Monica
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book scared the hell out of me. To think during this time and era, a few people can infect an entire state's justice system is unreal, but that is what has happened.

Two 3 yr old girls were raped and murdered in rural Mississippi. Law enforcement pursued and convicted two innocent men: Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks. They spent a combined 30 years in prison before finally being exonerated in 2008. Meanwhile, the real killer remained free.

Two doctors built their careers on the back of Miss
...more
Sarah
The facts presented in this book are infuriating and heartbreaking, and I am so glad I read it. The content is 5 star reporting, but my reading experience was closer to 3 stars, because it was kind of dry and took a long time to push myself through it. I think it's really worth a read, and I'm so glad the authors have shed light on this issue. This book focuses on two men who are responsible for testifying to evidence based on incompetent work and/or downright quackery over many years in the Mis ...more
Emily
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a really strong work of nonfiction, but the reason it's three stars rather than four is entirely do to personal preference.

I have a hard time with books that deal with child murder. I REALLY hard time. So the fact that the two cases upon which this book is centered are around that made reading it... difficult.

I listened to this on audiobook, which was a decent performance. It didn't blow me away, but it's definitely solid.

What this book does extremely well is present not just the miscon
...more
Andi Grayson
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow this book was amazing!! I honestly read it in like two days because of how gripping it was. The book is about two men: Michael West and Steven Hayne. Michael West is the “country dentist” in the book’s title, and Hayne is the “cadaver king.” Both these men effectively ruled Mississippi’s death investigation system for two decades by being the go-to men for coroners, law enforcement, and prosecutors when a suspicious death occurred in the state.

What happened in many cases is that Steven Hayn
...more
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SCPL Online NonFi...: Wrap Up 1 6 Aug 01, 2018 07:55AM  
SCPL Online NonFi...: Introduction 1 11 Jul 03, 2018 09:02AM  

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Radley Balko is a opinion blogger at the Washington Post, where he writes the popular blog on civil liberties and the criminal justice system, The Watch., Balko’s work on paramilitary raids and the overuse of SWAT teams was featured in the New York Times, has been praised by outlets ranging from Human Events to the Daily Kos, and was cited by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in his dissent in ...more

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“A study of Mississippi death investigations from 1981 through 1984 showed staggeringly high rates of deaths classified as “undetermined causes.” In DeSoto County, for example, the rate was 53 percent. In Benton County, it was 70 percent. The average across the country is around 3 percent.” 0 likes
“The core problem with the medicolegal system in Mississippi is that it’s easily manipulated—it serves those in power. Historically, it has served as a means of preserving the state’s white power structure. But that’s only because those in power wanted it that way.” 0 likes
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