In this unprecedented view from the trenches, prosecutor turned champion for the innocent Mark Godsey takes us inside the frailties of the human mind as they unfold in real-world wrongful convictions. Drawing upon shocking—yet true—stories from his own career, Godsey shares how innate psychological flaws and the “tough on crime” political environment specifically experienced by judges, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and juries can cause investigations to go awry, leading to the conviction of innocent people.
Each chapter explores a distinct psychological human weakness inherent in the criminal justice system—confirmation bias, memory malleability, credibility-determining errors, tunnel vision, cognitive dissonance, bureaucratic denial, "group think" mindsets, and dehumanization, and then illustrates each human weakness with true stories from Godsey's time as a prosecutor and innocence lawyer. Part confessional, Godsey takes us back to his days as a hard-nosed prosecutor and brings to life the law enforcement mindset that leads to wrongful convictions in a way that has never been done before.
It also analyzes the criminal justice system’s internal political pressures. How does the fact that judges, sheriffs, and prosecutors are elected officials impact how they view cases, especially since re-elections are based on showing tough stance on crime? How can defense attorneys provide appropriate support for their clients when many are over-worked and underpaid? And how do juries overcome their own bias that those in power or influence—police, prosecutors, and expert witnesses—know more about what the evidence tells them?
Godsey sheds a harsh light on the unintentional yet routine injustices committed by those charged with upholding justice. Yet in the end, he recommends structural, procedural, and attitudinal changes that can hopefully restore justice to the criminal justice system.
is Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati. He was an award winning federal prosecutor in New York City before becoming a leading attorney and activist for the wrongfully convicted. Godsey is the co-founder of the Ohio Innocence Project
, which has, to date, freed 24 innocent people from prison who collectively served more than 450 years for crimes they did not commit.
"The high-stakes work [of exoneration] is costly, time-consuming and frustrating, and it requires tenacity and compassion to persevere. Godsey has what it takes."--Time