Books About Wrongful Convictions

The following page represents only a small portion of available literature that deals with innocence issues and the wrongly convicted. Feel free to read them on your own, share them with friends, or even start a book club to discuss the issues the books raise and how they relate to issues in our criminal justice system. By clicking the links on this page and purchasing a book through Amazon, a portion of the sale will be donated back to the Innocence Project of Florida.

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Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong

Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong

by Brandon Garrett

DNA exonerations have shattered confidence in the criminal justice system by exposing how often we have convicted the innocent and let the guilty walk free. In this unsettling in-depth analysis, Brandon Garrett examines what went wrong in the cases of the first 250 wrongfully convicted people to be exonerated by DNA testing.

Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice book cover

Wrongly Convicted: Perspectives on Failed Justice

by Saundra D. Westervelt (Editor, Author), John A. Humphrey (Editor)

Essays in Part 1 show that eyewitnesses are often wrong, police trick suspects into making confessions, informants lie to gain benefits, and police can be incompetent or venal. Part 2 argues that those who are unpopular, uneducated, or members of a racial minority invite harsher treatment by authorities. The next section offers case studies on convictions that were wrongly obtained, followed by suggestions for changes in the criminal justice system, such as more active judges, an “innocence commission” to examine convictions, liberal use of DNA evidence, and better training for lawyers.

Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire

Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire

by Robert Perkinson

Texas Tough, a sweeping history of American imprisonment from the days of slavery to the present, explains how a plantation-based penal system once dismissed as barbaric became a template for the nation.

Drawing on the individual stories as well as authoritative research, Texas Tough reveals the true origins of America’s prison juggernaut and points toward a more just and humane future.

The Confession: A Novel

The Confession: A Novel

by John Grisham

In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, Travis Boyette abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what’s right and confess.

But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they’re about to execute an innocent man?

They Said It Was Murder book cover

They Said It Was Murder

by Brenton Butler

First the subject of the Oscar-winning documentary, “Murder On A Sunday Morning,” now Brent Butler speaks out in his own words. In shocking and graphic detail Brent describes his horrific ordeal from accusation to imprisonment and from trial to final exoneration. And the truth is more brutal than ever: The innocent are America’s latest victims.

Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases

Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases

by Scott Christianson

A chilling chronicle of what can happen when the criminal justice system goes awry, Christianson’s volume documents 42 cases in which an innocent person was sentenced for a crime that she or he didn’t commit.

True Stories of False Confessions

True Stories of False Confessions

Edited by Rob Warden and Steven A. Drizin

Warden and Drizin have collected 39 actual cases in which people said they were responsible for crimes they did not commit.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcerations in the Age of Colorblindness

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcerations in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander

In this book, Alexander argues that this system of mass incarceration “operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race.”

When Law Fails: Making Sense of Miscarriages of Justice

When Law Fails: Making Sense of Miscarriages of Justice

by Austin Sarat (Author), Jr. Charles Ogletree (Editor)

The ten original essays in When Law Fails view wrongful convictions not as random mistakes but as organic outcomes of a misshaped larger system that is rife with faulty eyewitness identifications, false confessions, biased juries, and racial discrimination.

Picking Cotton book cover

Picking Cotton

by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino (Author), Ronald Cotton (Author), Erin Torneo (Author)

Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken– but Jennifer’s positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face– and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy, and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.

The Wrong Guys book cover

The Wrong Guys

by Tom Wells and Richard Leo (Authors)

In this gripping story of justice gone awry, four innocent men separately confess to the heinous crime that none of them actually committed. Though the real perpetrator has since been convicted, three of the four remain in prison today, attesting to the powerful role confessions—even false ones—play in our criminal justice system, where they typically trump fact, reason, and common sense.

Chasing Justice

Chasing Justice

by Kerry Max Cook (Author)

Kerry Cook is an innocent man who wrongly served two decades in Texas’s notorious death house for the brutal 1977 rape and murder of 21-year-old Linda Jo Edwards. His struggle for freedom is said to be one of the worst cases of police and prosecutorial misconduct in American history.

Police Interrogation book cover

Police Interrogation and American Justice

by Richard A. Leo (Author)

Incriminating statements are necessary to solve crimes, but suspects almost never have reason to provide them. Therefore, as Richard Leo shows, crime units have developed sophisticated interrogation methods that rely on persuasion, manipulation, and deception to move a subject from denial to admission, serving to shore up the case against him. Ostensibly aimed at uncovering truth, the structure of interrogation requires that officers act as an arm of the prosecution.

American Furies book cover

American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment

by Sasha Abramsky

In this disturbing yet elegant exposé of U.S. penitentiaries and their surrounding communities, Sasha Abramsky shows how American prisons have abandoned their long-held ideal of rehabilitation, often for political reasons. After surveying our current state of affairs-life sentences for nonviolent crimes, appalling conditions for inmates, the growth of private prisons, the treatment of juveniles-Abramsky argues that our punitive policies are not only inhuman but deeply counterproductive. Brilliantly researched and compellingly told, American Furies reveals the devastating consequences of a society that believes in “lock ’em up and throw away the key.”

The Innocent Man book cover

The Innocent Man

by John Grisham

Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence—a book no American can afford to miss.

Dreams of Ada book cover

The Dreams of Ada

by Robert Mayer

Mayer reveals how the criminal justice system and an obsessed and overly zealous public can lead to injustice. The author does an excellent job depicting all sides of the story thoroughly and objectively. The reader is left with an eerie, frightening view of our criminal justice system.

Journey Toward Justice book cover

Journey Toward Justice

by Dennis Fritz

Dennis Fritz was an ordinary middle-aged man leading an ordinary life when he was charged with rape and murder. An overzealous prosecutor relied on flimsy evidence to convict and sentence Dennis to life in prison. After twelve years of incarceration, with the help of Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, Dennis was exonerated.

Interrogations, Confessions and Entrapment book cover

Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment (Perspectives in Law & Psychology)

by G. Daniel Lassiter (Author)

Represents the latest advances of the role of psychological factors in inducing potentially unreliable self-incriminating behavior – Chapters are authored by a diverse group psychologists, criminologists, and legal scholars who have contributed significantly to the collective understanding of the pressures that insidiously operate when the goal of law enforcement is to elicit self-incriminating behavior from suspected criminals – Reviews and analyzes the extant literature in this area as well as discussing how this knowledge can be used to help bring about needed changes in the legal system.

Surviving Justice book cover

Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated

by Dave Eggers (Compiler), Lola Vollen (Compiler), and an Introduction by Scott Turow

After spending years behind bars, hundreds of men and women with incontrovertible proof of their innocence have been released from America’s prisons. They were wrongfully convicted because of problems that plague many criminal proceedings—inept defense lawyers, overzealous prosecutors, deceitful interrogation tactics, misidentifications, and more. Finally free, usually after more than a decade of incarceration, the wrongly condemned re-enter society with nothing but scars from prison life only to struggle for survival on the outside.

Actual Innocence book cover

Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right

by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld

Here are the stories of innocent men and women—and the system that put them away under the guise of justice. Now updated with new information, Actual Innocence sheds light on “a system that tolerates lying prosecutors, slumbering defense attorneys and sloppy investigators” (Salt Lake Tribune)—revealing the shocking flaws that can derail the legal process and the ways that DNA testing has often shattered so-called solid evidence that condemned American citizens to death.

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