You can’t swing a bookmark without hitting a true crime book these days, or an earbud without hitting a true crime podcast. We are obsessed with stories of high-tech sleuthing that solves cold cases and justice found for victims.
Some of us even develop our own theories about what went wrong in an investigation… but we pay relatively little attention to convictions gone wrong, to the miscarriages of justice that lead to innocent people being imprisoned.
Dr Xanthé Mallet, internationally-renowned forensic scientist and criminologist, sets out to restore the balance and shine a spotlight on this neglected issue in Reasonable Doubt (which the team at Macmillan were kind enough to send to this true-crime junkie for review).
Mallett uses a series of case studies to explore the systemic failures of our criminal justice system. My stomach churned as I read case after case of wrongfully convicted people released after years, their lives in tatters, with little more than a “lol soz”.
She focuses on the factors of a case that increase the likelihood of a wrongful conviction, with particular attention to race and disability, and carefully explains forensic and legal processes that might otherwise escape your average armchair detective (e.g., do you understand the important distinction between “new” and “fresh” evidence? I didn’t, until I read Reasonable Doubt).
By examining how and why miscarriages of justice occur, Mallett reveals opportunities for us to avoid them, and highlights the importance of making adequate restitution where they do occur.