Attention true crime fans! Here’s a real page-turner for you. It’s the saga of a couple of doctors who presented themselves as experts of forensic medicine, though neither had training or credentials, and helped prosecutors sentence to jail or to death thousands of people in Mississippi over the last 25 years. Over time these doctors’ trial testimony became more and more implausible, their lack of documentation more glaring, the denouncements from professional colleagues more urgent, until they were discredited at last. A few wrongly convicted people were freed, but Mississippi refuses to revisit the vast majority of trials in which these two men testified because, well, what a can of worms.
Mississippi isn’t the only jurisdiction misplacing its trust in forensic experts, Texas has certainly had its own problems, but Balko and Carrington have chosen to write about what we have to hope is the most egregious case. With a forward by John Grisham, who served in the Mississippi legislature in the 80s and who admits that that body’s refusal to fund a state medical examiner’s office was one reason for the failure of justice described in The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist.