In spite of innocence: erroneous convictions in capital cases

Front Cover
Northeastern University Press, 1992 - Law - 399 pages
0 Reviews
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 failedin 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.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

IN SPITE OF INNOCENCE: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Real-life stories of 416 innocent men convicted for crimes punishable by death. This frightening study began in 1964 as a 19-page essay by Bedau (Philosophy/Tufts) that described 74 cases of ... Read full review

In spite of innocence: erroneous convictions in capital cases

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Similar in style and content to Martin Yant's Presumed Guilty ( LJ 3/15/91), this book reviews cases of persons wrongly convicted of crimes carrying the death penalty. It elaborates upon the important ... Read full review



9 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1992)

Hugo Adam Bedau is Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at Tufts University and editor of The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies.
Paul Cassell is a U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Utah and Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law.

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

Bibliographic information