Award-winning journalist Radley Balko and University of Mississippi law professor Tucker Carrington illustrate the persistent and historic plague of institutional racism and junk forensic science on our criminal justice system through the story of two death row inmates finally freed after their wrongful conviction based on the testimony of a controversial medical examiner.
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 recounts the story of how the criminal justice system allowed this to happen, and of how two men, Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, built successful careers on the back of that structure. For nearly two decades Hayne, a medical examiner, performed the vast majority of Mississippi's autopsies, while his friend Dr. 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.
Here, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington tell the haunting story of how the courts and Mississippi's death investigation system--a relic of the Jim Crow era--failed to deliver justice for its citizens. The authors argue that bad forensics, structural racism, and institutional failures are at fault, and raise sobering questions about our ability and willingness to address them.
About the Authors
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 Postarticles 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.