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Extended Audio Sample Actual Innocence: Five Days to Exexution and Other Dispatches of the Wrongly Convicted, by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Jim Dwyer Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (296 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, Jim Dwyer Narrator: Michael Boatman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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. In Actual 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 Innocence is 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. In Actual 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 Innocence is a passionate argument for sanity in our courtrooms and a fascinating journey through the looking glass of the American criminal justice system.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Ought to be required reading for anyone who believes that only the guilty are put to death…I would recommend Actual Innocence under normal circumstances. It’s gripping. But these are not normal circumstances. All over the country politicians are being forced to take a second look at capital punishment. This book will give them an eyeful.”

    Washington Post

  • “Shines a spotlight on the myriad errors that can send the wrong person to jail—and reiterates the argument prosecutors make when labeling DNA a powerful ‘tool’ of criminal justice.”

    Boston Herald

  • “In Actual Innocence, [the authors] make a compelling case that wrongful convictions are far more common than we think. Their book…is a riveting collection of judicial horror stories. Any chapter can make your palms sweat and your teeth grind…A book as powerful as the DNA science it reports on.”

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • “A book that makes a case for readily available post-conviction DNA testing…An astonishing compendium of stories about miscarriages of justice, the book looks into the causes and effects of defects in a criminal justice system that, as of last summer, had sent at least 64 people to prison and death row for crimes committed by others.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Raises a powerful challenge to the assumption that all is pretty much well with the legal system…A troubling portrayal of the criminal justice system from within its well-guarded walls.”

    New York Times

  • Actual Innocence documents the numerous instances in which men convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder were ultimately cleared…A gripping book that deserves to be widely read. It takes the very important topic of wrongful convictions and places a human face on it…A litany of appalling tales of error, incompetence, and downright corruption culminating in tainted convictions…Actual Innocence will raise the consciousness—and, one hopes, appeal to the conscience—of all who read it. That is hardly a minor achievement.”

    New York Law Journal

  • Actual Innocence should be required reading for everyone involved in our justice system.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “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

  • “Chilling and enlightening.”

    Associated Press

  • “A riveting and disturbing exposé of recent revelations in wrongful convictions…A bona fide (if unorthodox) page-turner…An efficient, fiery treatise which forces the reader to consider ominously persistent inequities within the contemporary justice system.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “An indictment of a system that tolerates lying prosecutors, slumbering defense attorneys, and sloppy investigators.”

    Salt Lake Tribune

  • “There’s enough human drama here to keep a network series going for years…What’s really unique and precious—even invaluable—about this book is the way that it uses the undeniable evidence of individual innocence to provide not just a searing indictment of a system gone horribly wrong, but a thorough diagnosis of symptoms and causes with the commonsense remedies as well…Actual Innocence will thrill you, anger you, inform you, and yes, even motivate you to do something, before you or someone you love becomes a victim of a system that is itself all too often criminal in the ‘justice’ it dispenses.”

    Denver Post

  • “The book does make many positive suggestions to help alleviate what is deemed a national scandal…Well-written.”

    Tampa Tribune

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Diana | 2/11/2014

    " A good dose of reality!! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Sana | 2/6/2014

    " Great information, not so great writing. Also, perhaps due to the nature of the topic, very graphic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Monica | 1/20/2014

    " Excellent summary of problems within the justice system. The book is written with a clear goal and bias, but after fact-checking some of the stories and names I'm convinced it is accurate, despite the occasional sensational turn of phrase. A quick and interesting read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Melanie | 1/16/2014

    " Again, read it for a class. There were a lot of typos, but I assume those are gone with the new edition. Certainly an eye-opener and goes beyond the hype to the actual cause of all of these wrongful convictions. The authors ask the hard questions about how we can change things. "

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