Published on February 21st, 2018 | by TLV News1
Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington Launch The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist on February 27 at Off Square Books
On Tuesday, February 27, award-winning journalist Radley Balko and University of Mississippi law professor Tucker Carrington will present their new book, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist at Off Square Books.
In their first book together, Washington Post reporter Balko and Director of the George C. Cochran Innocence Project in Mississippi Carrington come together to tell the story of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, two innocent men who spent a combined 30 years in prison. Brooks, sadly, passed away last month at the age of 58. He spent 16 of those years behind bars.
In The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, Balko and Carrington explore how such an atrocity can happen, focusing on the institutional racism and junk forensic science that plague Mississippi’s—and America’s—criminal justice system. Their “blistering exposé” (Garden & Gun) is a brilliantly reported and enraging chronicle of the decades-long abuses Mississippians like Brewer and Brooks have endured at the hands of overzealous prosecutors, compliant judges, bloodthirsty press, and—perhaps most of all—shoddy medical examiners. Drs. Steven Hayne and Michael West factor prominently here. Go-to experts for the prosecution in Mississippi and Louisiana, their catastrophic errors led to countless hasty sentencings that defense attorneys like Carrington are still working to overturn today.
Balko has been following Mississippi’s death investigation system—a Jim Crow relic—for over a decade. His reporting on it, and on Hayne and West’s inexpert testimony, introduced him to Carrington, as well as John Grisham, who wrote the foreword to the text. A member of the Mississippi legislature in the 1980s and a proponent for criminal justice reform, Grisham makes an impassioned case for readers to learn from Balko and Carrington’s work in The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist:
“This is a maddening story of a broken system… As you turn the pages, you will often be tempted to close this book and either laugh or cry or yell that what happened in Mississippi cannot possibly be true. But it is. It happened in plain view and with the complicity of many who were sworn to uphold the law. It is my hope that this book might inspire those with the necessary will and persistence to finally bring justice for the men and women around the country who have been wrongfully convicted and to fix the system so that nothing like this can ever happen again.”
Those in innocence work have made some strides on this front. Over the last 25 years, more than 2,000 exonerations have occurred in the United States. But workers know that America has a long way to go before justice is truly served. In the US, actual wrongful conviction estimates range from 2 to 10 percent (getting an exact number is difficult). These percentages may seem low, but when applied to a prison population of 2.3 million, they become staggering: Anywhere from 46,000 to 230,000 innocent people could be locked away right now.