The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist Summary and Reviews

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist

A True Story of Injustice in the American South

by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington X
The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington

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Book Summary

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 Mississippi's death investigation system - a relic of the Jim Crow era - failed to deliver justice for its citizens and recounts the horrifying story of the two men who built successful careers on the back of this system. For nearly two decades, medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne performed the vast majority of Mississippi's autopsies, while his friend Dr. Michael West, a local dentist, pitched himself as a forensic jack-of-all-trades. Together they became the go-to experts for prosecutors and helped put countless Mississippians in prison. But then some of those convictions began to fall apart.

Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington argue that bad forensics, structural racism, and institutional failures are at fault, and raise sobering questions about our criminal justice system's ability to address them.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A horrifying exposé of how a few individuals can infect an entire state's criminal justice system." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. This eminently readable book builds a hard-to-ignore case for comprehensive criminal justice reform." - Publishers Weekly

"This stinging exposé of faulty forensics is suited to the serious CSI enthusiast as well as students of criminal justice." - Library Journal

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Anl

Rcommended
Not a big surprise given government and its disinterest in honesty. The two black men whose cases were featured were clearly considered less than people by those in control. Interesting how folks take something so helpful - progress in forensic science - and corrupt it to $ benefit. The book is smooth reading, not tedious like some non fiction. Also does not become overly judgmental, which I find in many books today. Exposes just one aspect of medicine where the members protect each other at the cost of many others. What clearly comes across as well is how so many involved feel distorting the evidence to get a conviction is okay because the accused did it anyway. And if not this crime, other crimes. About their only “defense” is that the public is looking for x conviction rate; and they are under pressure to deliver in order to keep their elected or otherwise political jobs.
Also the book is just the right length. No beating of a dead horse.
An eye opener if you are unfamiliar with what can and often does go on anywhere.

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More Information

Radley Balko is an investigative journalist and reporter at the Washington Post. He currently writes and edits The Watch, a reported opinion blog that covers civil liberties and the criminal justice system. He is the author of the 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, which has won widespread acclaim, including from the Economist, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly, and was named one of the best investigative journalism books of the year by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. Since 2006, Balko has written dozens of pieces on Hayne, West, and Mississippi's forensics disaster. His January 2013 investigation, "Solving Kathy Mabry's Murder: Brutal 15-Year-Old Crime Highlights Decades-Long Mississippi Scandal," was one of the most widely read Huffington Post articles of 2013. In 2015, Balko was awarded the Innocence Project's Journalism Award, in part for his coverage in Mississippi.

Tucker Carrington is the director of the George C. Cochran Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He has worked as a criminal defense lawyer for his entire legal career, most of it as a public defender in Washington, D.C.

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