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 experienced by judges, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and juries can cause investigations to go awry, leading to the convictions 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 unprecedented.
This book 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 overworked and underpaid? And how do juries overcome their own bias that those in power or with influence—police, prosecutors, and expert witnesses—know more about what the evidence means?
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.
Mark Godsey 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 freed from prison 25 innocent people who collectively served more than 470 years for crimes they did not commit. Godsey frequently appears in national television and print media, including People, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Dateline NBC, and Forensic Files, among others. In 2017, his career was profiled in Time.
"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
An original, compelling work from a master storyteller. Godsey's rare triple-perspective of prosecutor, innocence champion, and law professor has created a unique and beautiful voice that not only contributes significantly to the innocence movement, but makes the book gripping and hard to put down. If I had to choose one book to give to prosecutors, judges, or important policy makers in Washington to help them understand the innocence movement and the dire need to reform our criminal justice system, this book would be it--hands down. A must-read for anyone who cares about justice. Richard A. Leo, Hamill Family Professor of Law and Psychology, University of San Francisco and Author of Police Interrogation and American Justice Mark Godsey’s journey from prosecuting in the storied U.S Attorney’s office in the the Southern District of New York to “innocence lawyer” in his hometown of Cincinnati has yielded an important, candid, and scholarly meditation on the “cognitive” traps that lead to wrongful convictions. This should be mandatory reading for all young federal and state prosecutors, not to mention judges and defense counsel. Barry Scheck, Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law, and Co-Founder of the Innocence Project Read Blind Injustice to understand how a prosecutor learned to rethink everything he had been taught about criminal justice, and in the process, became a leading champion of the innocent. This careful exploration of the psychology of criminal investigations, written in an accessible and conversational tone, exposes how even the best-intentioned officers can get evidence wrong and how we can restore truth to criminal justice.
Brandon Garret,Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law and author of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong