Monday, July 7, 2014

Anatomy of Injustice

I know that based on my blog entries, it doesn't look like I could possibly be a college student, but it's true. My university assigned a reading assignment to the incoming freshmen, to get us accustomed to the school's academic honesty policy. We have to read this book, and then come up with a research question and make an annotated bibliography. 

I was dreading this assignment, to be honest. Reading books hasn't been my main hobby lately - movies kind of took the #1 spot - and it's rare that I finish a book I start reading. However, once I picked up "Anatomy of Injustice" by Raymond Bonner, I was completely hooked. I was genuinely surprised that any academic institution assigned me an INTERESTING book to read.  

The novel is an in-depth analysis into America's justice system - or rather, the many, many faults in our justice system, particularly in capital punishment cases. The book reads like a gripping novel, with cases sprinkled throughout the novel to make a point about an issue. The story revolves around a murder case in the 1980's, a mentally-challenged man thrown into prison for the crime, and a young lawyer's utter determination to prove his innocence. 

In January 1982, a wealthy widow, elderly Dorothy Ely Edwards, was found brutally murdered in her home, which was located in a racist majority-white community in South Carolina. Quickly, the police found the perpetrator, a 23 year old poor, mentally challenged, but incredibly polite, kind and quiet black man who worked for Mrs. Edwards from time to time, Edward Lee Elmore. This arrest warrant was based on a fingerprint of his on her doorknob, and her checkbook - he had done a job for her recently and she had paid via check. Represented by incompetent lawyers - one a drunk, the other racist, against a determined, charismatic, dramatic prosecutor, he was convicted for the crime only 40-some days after his arrest. Soon, the mainly-white jury decided on a death sentence for him. He had two more trials, both a repeat of the first, before Texas-born lawyer Diana Holt looked at Elmore's case, 11 years later. Coming from a troubled past of her own, she was fascinated with capital punishment cases. The more she studied his case, the more her resolve strengthened to help him. She was sure that he was innocent, that somebody else the woman knew committed the crime. As she fought against the state for a new trial, a fair trial, she uncovered shocking acts by the local police and the South Carolina Law Enforcement division, including hiding evidence that would indicate Elmore's innocence, planting and testing knowingly false evidence that would keep Elmore on death row, encouraging an cellmate of Elmore's to testify against Elmore, that if he did so they would "take care of him." For these reasons, among others, Elmore was imprisoned, constantly awaiting execution.

I won't tell you how this story ends, that you'll have to find out for yourself. At moments in the book I literally cried at the injustice dealt out to Elmore and other inmates on Death Row. I was angry, so angry at the human manipulation in the American justice system. The book can turn a staunch supporter of the death penalty to an opponent, if they have even a bit of compassion, empathy, and aren't racist or total rednecks, of course. I highly recommend this book to anybody, even those who don't think they would like to read a crime book. 

Get this book online using the links! 
- Barnes & Noble -
- Amazon -

It's summer now, the perfect time to grab a good book, like this one, and lay out in the sun. Happy reading! :) 

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