A message from Lew Weinstein, author of A Good Conviction.

Most Americans are comfortable in the belief that if they don't commit any crime, they have no risk of going to jail.

Unfortunately, that's just not true.

Wrongful prosecution of a young man for a murder he did not commit is the core of my new novel, A Good Conviction. I explore what my fictional prosecutor did to suppress evidence, why he did it, and how Josh Blake, struggling to survive amidst the horrors of Sing Sing prison, tries to understand how his life was destroyed.

My recently posted Listmania on amazon.com, "Lew Weinstein's best books about good and bad prosecutors," will direct you to many of the sources cited below and to others which describe the pressures on prosecutors, and how some crumble under that pressure.

A Good Conviction
Now what is this all about.

While most prosecutors are honest and try to do justice which allows all defendants the fair trial to which they are entitled, too many prosecutors fail to uphold this sacred obligation.

There is considerable evidence, from many jurisdictions, that conviction of the innocent, in violation of the laws which are supposed to protect all of us, is not as rare in America as we might like to believe.

Why is this so? Well, sometimes it's not easy for a prosecutor to build a case which will convince a jury `beyond a reasonable doubt,' even if the prosecutor believes in his or her heart that the defendant is guilty.

No prosecutor wants to be embarrassed by losing a case. No prosecutor who has ambitions can afford to lose too many cases. Faced with the possibility of losing, some prosecutors are tempted to break the law. So they cheat to get a conviction.

Most often, they do this by suppressing evidence that goes against their case, evidence that would produce `reasonable doubt' in a juror's mind.

Sometimes, they conspire to make up evidence which alleges guilt, for instance by planting "stoolies" who then testify about admissions by the defendant which never happened.

Don't believe it? Think it can't happen in America, the land of justice for all? Consider these serious reports by very credible organizations ...
  • The Chicago Tribune reported that 381 murder convictions were reversed because of police or prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Columbia Law School documented "chronic prosecutorial suppression of evidence of innocence."
  • Barry Scheck et al (in Actual Innocence) report numerous cases of prosecutorial misconduct, usually by suppression of evidence that would have proven innocence.
  • The website of the organization Truth in Justice cites prosecutorial misconduct as a factor in at least 2,017 cases.
  • The book In Spite of Innocence, published by Northeastern University Press, cites 400 wrongful convictions in murder cases.
  • The powerful play The Exonerated presents the terrible stories, in their own words, of seven persons who were wrongfully convicted
  • The Sam Sheppard and Jeffrey MacDonald cases are just two of many famous cases where it is now clear that mountains of evidence supporting innocence never reached a jury.
How likely is it there are many more such cases that have never come to significant public attention?

Is it possible that what we do know is but the tip of the iceberg?

Wrongful prosecution could happen to anyone. It could happen to you.


Recommended Reading
Truth in Justice