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Extended Audio Sample Actual Innocence: Five Days to Exexution and Other Dispatches of the Wrongly Convicted Audiobook, by Barry Scheck 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: July 2000 ISBN: 9780553752243
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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

  • Actual Innocence is 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 of A Civil Action
  • Actual Innocence is 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 Innocence is 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 of Dark Justice
  • Actual Innocence is 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 put Actual Innocence down; it's a book everyone should read. Philip Friedman, author of No Higher Law
  • “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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jamie | 1/13/2014

    " I got SO angry I often had to put this book down for days, frickin' politics. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melissa | 1/10/2014

    " Awesome book about the failures of our criminal justice system. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katie | 12/29/2013

    " Such an important book!! I just want to force it, and every bit of information about The Innocence Project, on everyone. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan W | 12/10/2013

    " This eye opening account of the failures of our criminal justice system is at once insightful and horrifying. The presentation style of the book is clear and the book should serve as a wake up call to any supporter of executions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julie (julie37619) | 12/9/2013

    " I loved this book. I read it online at work and was anxious to get to work every day to read it! It goes along with a documentary called After Innoncence that is also about the Innocence Project. Great reading! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 7/3/2013

    " I might be a bit biased, since I had the privilege of working with Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project while in law school, but I think this book has something really important to say. You will be shocked and appalled at our justice system when you read this book, and rightly so. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Edwin | 5/16/2013

    " Good book on some of the problems of the criminal justice system. We need to fix these problems and not have more innocent people locked up for crimes they never did. It's a travesty. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shira | 4/16/2012

    " Written by lawyers and not writers, so the book isn't written that well. But the stories are remarkable, and this is a must read for anyone who cares about constitutional rights and our democracy but is not familiar with this topic. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jake | 2/28/2012

    " I dare anyone to read this book and still believe in the death penalty. Well-written, honest and lacking the proverbial heavy hand. An excellent account of how many times are system has screwed up but still keeps on keeping on. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lewis Weinstein | 12/1/2011

    " The cases Barry Scheck cites will make you ill. Innocent people going to jail or execution because prosecutors hid evidence, or created it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 11/12/2011

    " Fascinating book by the lawyer spearheading the Innocence Project. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ericka | 10/12/2011

    " Amazing book you will learn how the American justice system is flawed in so many ways but it also provides hope. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg Fanoe | 10/20/2010

    " Features some chilling facts and practical considerations. But, actually, the stories themselves of how the innocent people got put in jail and the process of getting them out are pretty much all really interesting too. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ericka | 9/28/2010

    " Amazing book you will learn how the American justice system is flawed in so many ways but it also provides hope. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 1/12/2010

    " This eye opening account of the failures of our criminal justice system is at once insightful and horrifying. The presentation style of the book is clear and the book should serve as a wake up call to any supporter of executions. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sana | 10/21/2009

    " 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 Jamie | 8/5/2009

    " I got SO angry I often had to put this book down for days, frickin' politics. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julie (julie37619) | 9/30/2008

    " I loved this book. I read it online at work and was anxious to get to work every day to read it! It goes along with a documentary called After Innoncence that is also about the Innocence Project. Great reading! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Melissa | 8/13/2008

    " Awesome book about the failures of our criminal justice system. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jake | 2/28/2008

    " I dare anyone to read this book and still believe in the death penalty. Well-written, honest and lacking the proverbial heavy hand. An excellent account of how many times are system has screwed up but still keeps on keeping on. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melanie | 1/22/2008

    " 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Edwin | 1/15/2008

    " Good book on some of the problems of the criminal justice system. We need to fix these problems and not have more innocent people locked up for crimes they never did. It's a travesty. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 10/13/2007

    " I might be a bit biased, since I had the privilege of working with Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project while in law school, but I think this book has something really important to say. You will be shocked and appalled at our justice system when you read this book, and rightly so. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jamie | 8/21/2007

    " I used to be pro-death penalty and in college I waivered a bit. This book absolutely convinced me that in our system, we absolutely cannot have the death penalty and call ourselves just or fair. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melanie | 8/7/2007

    " simple, quick read. journalistic style, but very interesting (and correct). "

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About the Author
Daily News.
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Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer are among the United States' leading experts on innocence issues. Scheck and Neufeld founded and direct the Innocence Project, which seeks postconviction release through DNA testing. Perhaps the most prominent civil rights attorneys in the country, both are in private practice in New York City. Dwyer, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News, began inquiring into wrongful convictions in 1992. He is also the author of Subway Lives: 24 Hours in the Life of the New York City Subway, and co-author of Two Seconds Under the World, an account of the World Trade Center bombing.
About the Narrator

Michael Boatman is an Image Award–nominated actor and writer who is best known for his roles in the television series China Beach, Spin City, and Arliss. He has also appeared in the major motion pictures The Peacemaker and Hamburger Hill. His audiobook narration has garnered eight AudioFile Earphones Awards and earned him the prestigious Audie Award in 2008 and 2010.