In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases

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UPNE, 1994 - Social Science - 399 pages
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Few errors made by a government can compare with the horror of executing an innocent person. But the ordeal of victims of judicial error is not measured only by whether they are executed. This sobering book tells the personal stories of over 400 innocent Americans convicted of capital crimes. Some were actually executed; most suffered years of incarceration, many on death row. The volume confronts the reader with how easily safeguards against mistaken convictions can fail. In showing that ordinary citizens, in spite of their innocence, can become trapped in the machinery of justice - even sentenced to die - the authors deliver a strong indictment against capital punishment. Michael L. Radelet, Hugo Adam Bedau, and Constance E. Putnam recount in alarming detail the mistaken identities, perjured witnesses, overzealous prosecutions, and negligent police work that led to more than 400 people being erroneously convicted of capital or potentially capital crimes in this country between 1900 and 1991. The authors describe the arduous routes these defendants traveled to prove their innocence; they demonstrate how frequently luck played a crucial role in freeing an innocent defendant; and they show how, all too often, public officials remained indifferent to evidence that an innocent person had been sentenced to death. "Most Americans do not seriously distrust our criminal justice system or the efficiency and dedication of law enforcement officers," the authors acknowledge in their introduction. "At the same time we know that public servants are not infallible, and that honest errors and occasionally outright corruption do occur. How frequently in the past has the criminal justice system failed in a capital case to convict only the guilty? What explains these failures? How likely are they to happen in the future? How, if at all, can they be remedied or prevented?" Radelet, Bedau, and Putnam argue that there is no remedy, no way to eliminate the risk of failures, even in what is admittedly the world's best criminal justice system, except to abolish the death penalty.
  

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Review: In Spite of Innocence

User Review  - Joe - Goodreads

Very interesting look at criminal justice, history, and capital punishment. The writing wasn't great but it was extremely interesting and informative. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
3
Parti BEARING FALSE WITNESS
18
Partll PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
77
A Smear of Blood and Paint
141
Gullible Police and a Vulnerable Suspect
157
Wrong Place Wrong Time
176
Guilty at First Sight
197
The Luck of the Draw
218
Its a Scar Thats Been Placed on Me
235
Even Experts Make Mistakes
253
Conclusion
271
Inventory of Cases
282
Glossary of Legal Terms
357
Bibliography
379
8 5
398
Copyright

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About the author (1994)

CONSTANCE E. PUTNAM is a independent scholar and writer who specializes in medical history and medical ethics. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

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