Catalogue


Actual innocence : five days to execution and other dispatches from the wrongly convicted /
Jim Dwyer, Peter Neufeld, Barry Scheck.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
description
xvii, 297 p. : ill., map
ISBN
038549341X
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
isbn
038549341X
catalogue key
3602592
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld founded and direct the pro-bono Innocence Project at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Both are in private practice in New York City. Jim Dwyer is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist--who currently writes for the New York Daily News.
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
An Innocence Project Trapped in a wilderness of wrong places, Inmate 85A6097 howled, body and soul. His skin erupted. His teeth rotted. His feet grew warts too big for his shoes. His lungs flooded with pneumonia. His scalp dried to sand, his hemorrhoids burned so hot that only a surgeon's knife could cool them. He was often cranky and defiant with the prison staff, so whatever time he did not pass at sick call or in a hospital usually was spent in a disciplinary program. Marion Coakley had been a young man when he entered prison to serve a fifteen-year sentence for rape, and everyone who met him agreed that he was a simple soul and a difficult convict. "Marion is mentally retarded and a very angry individual," wrote a prison psychologist, one of many to use those words after meeting Coakley. "He has little insight into his behavior." The one bright note in his record was sounded by a prison teacher, who said that even though Marion understood little, he tried hard. She awarded him a certificate of merit for successfully memorizing the multiplication tables from zero to nine. He was thirty-two years old. At ten minutes to five on September 3, 1987, Marion rose from the cafeteria table in the Fishkill penitentiary where he had been resolutely chewing every last bite. He was alone. Moments before, his unit had been ordered to leave the dining area. It was two years to the week since he had arrived in prison, and he certainly knew the rules required him to leave the table promptly when ordered. But Marion continued munching until he was good and ready. He pushed back his chair and strolled over to a trash can to dump his tray. At the doorway, Corrections Officer T. Hodge waited. "When the unit officer calls your unit to leave the mess hall, you have to leave," said Hodge. "I wasn't finished," said Coakley. "Doesn't matter, you had your time to eat," said Hodge. "When you're called, you're supposed to leave." "I'm a man," roared Coakley. "I'll leave when I am done eating. And nobody's gonna tell me what to do!" A supervisor, a corrections sergeant, walked over to serve as a human blanket on the fuss. The inmates ate in shifts, and a new cohort was waiting at the doors. The officers wanted to move Coakley out of the way quickly and quietly, before any sympathetic rumble could gather force. "I ain't gonna leave till I'm finished," yelled Coakley, whirling his arms. "Now I'm finished, so I'm leaving." "Please keep your arms at your side," said the sergeant. "I ain't doing nothing, finishing my dinner," said Coakley, palms up, a shrug that did not mean surrender. "This is a direct order: Keep your arms at your side," said the sergeant. Coakley dropped his arms. "Give me your ID card," said Officer Hodge. "Don't have it," said Coakley, an automatic infraction. Another sergeant arrived, and the three officers quickly pinioned Coakley's arms to his side and rushed him away. He was put under immediate "keep-lock," an on-the-spot discipline administered to prisoners who pose threats to the order of the institution. He was confined to Cell 20. As soon as the door closed behind the guards, Marion knew what he was facing, because already he had passed four months under keep-lock and related disciplines. He would lose his commissary privileges, his phone call privileges, and his package privileges. Visitors, too, most likely. He would not be allowed to leave his cell for much of the day because he would have no prison job to go to. "This ain't right," he screamed. "This ain't right." Then he did to his cell what his body had done to him during his two years of confinement. He slowly, solitarily wrecked the place. The beddin
First Chapter
An Innocence Project

Trapped in a wilderness of wrong places, Inmate 85A6097 howled, body and soul. His skin erupted. His teeth rotted. His feet grew warts too big for his shoes. His lungs flooded with pneumonia. His scalp dried to sand, his hemorrhoids burned so hot that only a surgeon's knife could cool them. He was often cranky and defiant with the prison staff, so whatever time he did not pass at sick call or in a hospital usually was spent in a disciplinary program.

Marion Coakley had been a young man when he entered prison to serve a fifteen-year sentence for rape, and everyone who met him agreed that he was a simple soul and a difficult convict. "Marion is mentally retarded and a very angry individual," wrote a prison psychologist, one of many to use those words after meeting Coakley. "He has little insight into his behavior." The one bright note in his record was sounded by a prison teacher, who said that even though Marion understood little, he tried hard. She awarded him a certificate of merit for successfully memorizing the multiplication tables from zero to nine. He was thirty-two years old.

At ten minutes to five on September 3, 1987, Marion rose from the cafeteria table in the Fishkill penitentiary where he had been resolutely chewing every last bite. He was alone. Moments before, his unit had been ordered to leave the dining area. It was two years to the week since he had arrived in prison, and he certainly knew the rules required him to leave the table promptly when ordered. But Marion continued munching until he was good and ready.

He pushed back his chair and strolled over to a trash can to dump his tray. At the doorway, Corrections Officer T. Hodge waited.

"When the unit officer calls your unit to leave the mess hall, you have to leave," said Hodge.

"I wasn't finished," said Coakley.

"Doesn't matter, you had your time to eat," said Hodge. "When you're called, you're supposed to leave."

"I'm a man," roared Coakley. "I'll leave when I am done eating. And nobody's gonna tell me what to do!"

A supervisor, a corrections sergeant, walked over to serve as a human blanket on the fuss. The inmates ate in shifts, and a new cohort was waiting at the doors. The officers wanted to move Coakley out of the way quickly and quietly, before any sympathetic rumble could gather force.

"I ain't gonna leave till I'm finished," yelled Coakley, whirling his arms. "Now I'm finished, so I'm leaving."

"Please keep your arms at your side," said the sergeant.

"I ain't doing nothing, finishing my dinner," said Coakley, palms up, a shrug that did not mean surrender.

"This is a direct order: Keep your arms at your side," said the sergeant. Coakley dropped his arms.

"Give me your ID card," said Officer Hodge.

"Don't have it," said Coakley, an automatic infraction.

Another sergeant arrived, and the three officers quickly pinioned Coakley's arms to his side and rushed him away. He was put under immediate "keep-lock," an on-the-spot discipline administered to prisoners who pose threats to the order of the institution. He was confined to Cell 20.

As soon as the door closed behind the guards, Marion knew what he was facing, because already he had passed four months under keep-lock and related disciplines. He would lose his commissary privileges, his phone call privileges, and his package privileges. Visitors, too, most likely. He would not be allowed to leave his cell for much of the day because he would have no prison job to go to.

"This ain't right," he screamed. "This ain't right."

Then he did to his cell what his body had done to him during his two years of confinement. He slowly, solitarily wrecked the place.

The bedding was first to go. He hated the bed that owned too much of his nights and days. "I do not like to laying up doing noetin," he had written a few months earlier, asking to be released from an earlier keep-lock regimen. Now he hurled the mattress and blanket to the floor. He slammed the bed frame into the door, pounding away until it fractured. With a bar broken from the bed, he pulverized the sink. And with anything he could grab--paper, pillowcases, clothes--he stuffed the toilet bowl, where he had bled from his tortured hemorrhoids.

A small group of corrections officers gathered outside the cell, listening to the destruction. They saw water flowing under the door from the clogged toilet and busted plumbing. When the racket had settled for a minute, one of the guards shouted at Coakley to knock it off.

Marion responded by using the bed frame to batter the metal screen of the observation window in the door. The window screen buckled at the assault; then the glass shattered, flying into the courtyard of the cell block. "I want to see the warden," howled Coakley. "I don't belong here."

Spent, he collapsed in the flooded cell. Three hours after the start of his one-man, one-cell rampage, he was coaxed out by a prison chaplain. Marion was escorted to an empty cell, where he whistled and shrieked into the block. No one could sleep. The next morning, a prison psychiatrist was called to assess the inmate. A man could lose it one night, but Marion Coakley's overall record was dreadful. From the day he shuffled his manacled feet into the prison system's reception center, Coakley showed "persistently negative adjustment" and had "performed less than satisfactorily in work placement." He refused to "accept staff direction," and showed "limited intelligence, little insight into his problems and current dilemma." He had been kept on antipsychotic medicine. The measure of its futility could be seen in the remains of Cell 20.

Less than twenty-four hours after Marion Coakley destroyed a very sturdy cell with his bare hands, the psychiatrist with the Department of Corrections concluded, unsurprisingly, that Marion Coakley remained an angry man. The Fishkill psychiatrist had the solution: Make him another prison's problem. "Psychiatrist recommended immediate placement in a more structured and secure environment," stated an evaluation written by the staff after the night of destruction. "Subject transferred at direction of the first deputy superintendent."
Excerpted from Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Jim Dwyer
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-01-10:
Scheck gained celebrity for his role in the defense of O.J. Simpson and the "nanny trial" of Louise Woodward. But most of his cases are unsung, and usually he gets involved later on, after a verdict of guilty has been handed down. He and partner Neufeld founded the Innocence Project to aid those who have been wrongly convicted--a failure of justice that occurs with frightening frequency, as documented in this startling expose. The Innocence Project alone has helped 43 wrongfully convicted persons--one was actually on death row for 12 years--gain their freedom, primarily through the use of new DNA techniques, which can be applied to old evidence (blood or, in the case of rape, semen). What Scheck, Neufeld and Pulitzer-winning Daily News columnist Dwyer offer here is a report on the many ways justice can go astray and an innocent person be convicted. Perhaps one of the more shocking of their revelations is the unreliability of eyewitness testimony; in addition to studies and statistics, they present a case in which three eyewitnesses separately identified the defendant as a rapist/robber: evidence uncovered by Scheck and Neufeld eventually exonerated him. Scheck and Neufeld offer a litany of such errors, along with detailed case histories: false "confessions," fraudulent lab results, junk science (particularly the use of hair typing as evidence), prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate defense lawyering have all led to convictions of the innocent. The authors offer concrete advice on how these dangers can be minimized (e.g., videotaping all police interrogations to ensure confessions aren't forced). This is an alarming wake-up call to those who administer our justice system that serious flaws must be addressed to protect the innocent. Literary Guild featured selection. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2000-10-15:
Scheck and Peter Neufeld, founders of the Innocence Project, along with journalist Jim Dwyer, give details of persons wrongfully convicted and imprisoned and, in doing so, point out problems with the American criminal justice system. Many of the people were victims of incompetent public defenders or overzealous prosecutors; some were identified by mistaken eyewitnesses, others by jailhouse snitches only too eager to make deals for themselves. Many of the imprisoned were released through DNA evidence that proved that they could not have committed the crimes; yet, as the authors show, the system sometimes moves much more slowly in redressing a wrong than in creating one. Throughout, though, the major emphasis is on the stories of the convicted themselves, gripping and anguished tales of injustice. Intelligently read by Michael Boatman, who lets the dramatics of the tales speak for themselves, this will make all listeners rethink their notions of justice and sentencing. Very highly recommended for all collections.ÄSally G. Waters, Stetson Law Lib., St. Petersburg, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Actual Innocenceis a gut-wrenching, terrifying, hair-raising account of how fatally wrong things can go inside the American criminal justice system. But it's also--thank God--a chronicle of redemption, of how science and a group of dedicated individuals have exposed those wrongs." --Jonathan Harr, Author ofA Civil Action "Actual Innocenceis a powerful and illuminating look into the obscene quagmire of American criminal prosecutions. DNA has at last provided the key to the jailhouse door for a veritable host of innocent victims of this system. The book is a great service to justice." --Arthur Miller "Actual Innocenceis a real-life legal thriller, the harrowing account of ten innocent men wrongfully convicted by a justice system that too often just doesn't work. Well written and well researched, this book is like a clarion call alerting us to how easily corruption, prejudice, laziness, and flat-out stupidity can cause tragic errors--and how difficult those errors are to correct. This may be the most important book on American criminal justice in a decade." --William Bernhardt, author ofDark Justice "Actual Innocenceis a remarkably compelling book. Using real-life stories more horrifyingly gripping than any fiction, the authors make clear the deep flaws in our criminal justice system, and the positive difference that is being made by DNA identification methods whose use [Scheck and Neufeld] pioneered. Telling their tale clearly and without fanfare, they let the human drama speak for itself. I couldn't putActual Innocencedown; it's a book everyone should read." --Philip Friedman, author ofNo Higher Law
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, October 1999
Publishers Weekly, January 2000
Library Journal, February 2000
Los Angeles Times, February 2000
New York Times Book Review, February 2000
Globe & Mail, March 2000
Reference & Research Book News, August 2000
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Extraordinarily powerful stories of ordinary people locked up for crimes they did not commit, and how they were freed against great odds. A nightmare from a thousand B-movies: a horrible crime is committed in your neighborhood, and the police knock at your door. A witness swears you are the perpetrator; you have no alibi, and no one believes your protestations of innocence. You're convicted, sentenced to hard time in maximum security, or even death row, where you await the executioner's needle. Tragically, this is no movie script but reality for hundreds of American citizens. Our criminal justice system is broken, and people from all walks of life have been destroyed by its failures. But science and a group of incredibly dedicated crusaders are working to repair the damage. In the last ten years, DNA testing has uncovered stone-cold proof that sixty-five completely innocent people have been sent to prison and death row. But even in cases where there is physical evidence, the criminal justice system frees prisoners only after a torturous legal process. Incredibly, according to many trial judges, "actual innocence" is not grounds for release from prison. At the Innocence Project, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld have helped to free thirty-seven wrongly convicted people, and have taken up the cause of hundreds more. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jim Dwyer has been covering innocence cases for a decade. InActual Innocence, Scheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer relate the harrowing stories of ten innocent men--convicted by sloppy police work, corrupt prosecutors, jailhouse snitches, mistaken eyewitnesses, and other all-too-common flaws of the trial system--and tell of the heroic efforts to free them. Intense, startling, and utterly compelling,Actual Innocenceis a passionate and fascinating journey through the looking glass of the American criminal justice system. Tragically, this is no movie script but reality for hundreds of American citizens. Our criminal justice system is broken, and people from all walks of life have been destroyed by its failures. But science and a group of incredibly dedicated lawyers are working to repair the damage. In the last decade of this century, DNA testing has uncovered stone-cold proof that fifty-five completely innocent people were sent to prison and death row. At the Innocence Project, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld have managed to free forty-three wrongly convicted people and have taken up the cause of two hundred more. Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Jim Dwyer covered this courthouse revolution from its very first days. InActual Innocence, Scheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer relate the harrowing stories of ten of these individuals--convicted by sloppy police work, corrupt prosecutors, jailhouse snitches, mistaken witnesses, inept lawyers, and other all-too-common flaws in the trial system--and tell of the heroic efforts to free them. Intense, harrowing, and compelling,Actual Innocenceis a passionate argument for sanity in our courtrooms and a fascinating journey through the looking glass of the American criminal justice system. -->
Table of Contents
Authors' Notep. ix
Prefacep. xi
An Innocence Projectp. 1
An Inventionp. 35
Seeing Thingsp. 41
False Confessionsp. 78
White Coat Fraudp. 107
Snitchp. 126
Junk Sciencep. 158
Broken Oathsp. 172
Sleeping Lawyersp. 183
Racep. 193
The Death of Innocentsp. 211
Starting Overp. 223
Lessonsp. 239
Appendix 1p. 255
Appendix 2p. 261
Sourcesp. 268
Acknowledgmentsp. 285
Indexp. 291
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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