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Books about wrongful conviction and related issues

August 30, 2017

Tags: The Innocence Project

I've posted this list of books about wrongful convictions and related issues as a resource for book groups and those studying the criminal justice system. These books have all been recommended by the deeply worthwhile Innocence Project, which works nationwide to free the innocent and reform our criminal justice system. "DNA testing has exonerated more than 345 innocent people in the United States – and others are still waiting for justice." Do let me know of any other worthwhile books in the comments section. Donations to The Innocence Project are 100% tax-deductible.*

Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer (2000)
Adams vs. Texas: The True Story Made Famous by the Highly Acclaimed Film The Thin Blue Line by Randall Adams, with William Hoffer and .Marilyn Mona Hoffer (1991)
An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington Jr by Margaret Edds (2003)
Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin (2004)
The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City's Most Infamous Crimes by Sarah Burns (2011)
Convicting the Innocent: The Story of a Murder, a False Confession, and the Struggle to Free a ‘Wrong Man’ by Donald S. Connery (1996)
Convicting the Innocent, Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong by Brandon Garrett (2011)
Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman’s Harrowing Quest for Justice by Bill Lueders (2006) The injustice in this case was suffered by a 38-year-old blind woman who “suffered from incompetence and bias at every level of law enforcement.” “Lueders lays bare the many missteps of the case, starting with the detective's bias and continuing through the unwillingness of the justice system to support one woman's word against the police, even after DNA evidence was found.”
Drawn to Injustice: The Wrongful Conviction of Timothy Masters by Timothy Masters and Steve Lehto (2012)
The Dreams of Ada by Robert Mayer (1987)
Executed on a Technicality: Lethal Injustice on America’s Death Row by David Dow (2005)
Exit to Freedom by Calvin Johnson with Greg Hampikian (2003)
False Justice: Eight Myths That Lead to Wrongful Convictions by Jim Petro and Nancy Petro (2011)
Full Circle: A True Story of Murder, Lies and Vindication by Gloria Killian and Sandra Kobrin (2012)
Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton (2014)
In Doubt: The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process by Dan Simon (2012)
The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham (2006)
The Innocents by Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck, Althea Wasow, and Taryn Simon (2003) Leading civil rights attorneys Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project commissioned photographer Taryn Simon to travel across the United States photographing and interviewing individuals who were convicted of heinous crimes of which they were innocent. Simon photographed these innocents at sites of particular significance to their illegitimate conviction: the scene of the crime, misidentification, arrest, or alibi. Simon’s portraits are accompanied by a commentary by Neufeld and Scheck.
Journey Toward Justice by Dennis Fritz (2006)
Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom by John Hollway and Ronald M. Gauthier (2010)
Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, with Erin Torneo (2009)
A Promise of Justice: The Eighteen-Year Fight to Save Four Innocent Men by David Protess and Rob Warden (1998)
Pruno, Ramen, and a Side of Hope: Stories of Surviving Wrongful Conviction by Courtney B. Lance & Nikki D. Pope (2015)
Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated compiled and edited by Lola Vollen and Dave Eggers, foreword by Scott Turow (2005)
Tested: How Twelve Wrongly Imprisoned Men Held Onto Hope by Peyton Budd and Dorothy Budd (2010)
Tulia:Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee (2005)
Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty by Scott Turow 2003.

*DISCLOSURE: Also, buy anything from Amazon after clicking on a link here and I get a small referral fee for your purchases (at no increase in the cost to you). I will make a donation to The Innocence Project and I hope you will too. It is worth supporting in every way possible. Meanwhile, read these books! Check them out of your local library.


  1. September 29, 2017 7:32 PM EDT
    See also When ‘Not Guilty’ Is a Life Sentence (Mac McClelland, The New York Times Magazine, 9-27-17) What happens after a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity? Often the answer is involuntary confinement in a state psychiatric hospital — with no end in sight. Mac McClelland writes about the grim uncertainty that faces defendants who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity — and placed into a system that may deprive them of their freedom for longer than if they'd been convicted. One man she speaks to has been in a hospital for almost two decades. McClelland visits him alongside his mother, who says she put her life on hold to help tend to him for what she thought would be a few years, given that her son is technically, legally, not responsible for his crime. "On James's birthday," McClelland writes, "she brings a party: relatives, presents, a cake. And almost every week, on every visiting day, she and James try to make a life here together at the hospital — because it now seems possible that he could die there." Do read the comments, as well as the piece.
    - PM
  2. December 21, 2018 8:59 PM EST
    She Was Exonerated of the Murder of Her Son. Her Life Is Still Shattered. (Pamela Colloff, NY Times Magazine, 12-20-18) Julie Rea was convicted of killing her 10-year-old son largely on the testimony of bloodstain-pattern analysts. She was later acquitted and exonerated, joining a growing community of Americans wrongly convicted with bad science.
    “Surviving your child’s murder, only to find out that you’re being accused of murdering your child, is a kind of trauma that I wouldn’t wish on any living being. I wouldn’t wish it on a snake.”~Julie Rea
    - PM