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The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A…
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The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the… (2018)

by Radley Balko, Tucker Carrington (Author)

Other authors: John Grisham (Foreword)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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956188,054 (4.22)11
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    The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum (JenniferRobb)
    JenniferRobb: Both books look at early stages in history of forensics (though in different areas of the USA).
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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This nonfiction focuses on a coroner in Mississippi and his dentist cohort, and on two major cases of innocent men found guilty of murder because of them. It covers other cases and other people as well, and a great deal about forensics and pseudoscience. The two main cases, both horrible murders of very small children, is heartbreaking, but the authors do not exploit the facts, do not use their murders gratuitously. This book is a great balance of the highly personal and the general. DNA has helped exonerate many innocent, but there are many others where DNA is not available. And the retrial obstructions can be onerous if not impossible to overcome. And if you were accused to a crime against a person in Mississippi, chances are the dentist will determine you bit the victim. If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The Innocence Project and others like it have helped many, but it is just a drop on the bucket.

I listened to the Audible edition of this book, and the narrator was excellent. This is not an emotionally easy book to read or listen to, but it is well written, clearly written, fascinating, and necessary for anyone who believes in justice. And if you are ever in Mississippi, especially if you are a poor black man, don't ever get arrested because your chances of being found guilty are remarkably high. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Feb 11, 2019 |
This is one of the most disturbing books I've ever read. While the story focuses on the most prominent corner & forensic dentist in Mississippi, revealing the questionable methods and conclusions of these two forensic experts challenges juries' often easy acceptance of expert testimony in general.
  mariannedawnl | May 27, 2018 |
There's a fundamental mismatch between science as a discipline and the legal system that would really like to use scientific evidence to support its conclusions, and this book makes a terrifically thorough case that forensic science as it currently exists and is practiced is the worst of both worlds. By focusing on the egregious case of Stephen Hayne and Michael West (and the Mississippi legal system that enabled their corruption) Balko and Carrington present a very bleak view of the likelihood of justice in our current system. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Apr 21, 2018 |
It was not as interesting as the BookPage reviewer or the back cover blurb made it sound. The title caught my eye because of the part about the dentist (he doesn't show up until Chapter 7 or so). Prior to that, I had to wade through history of coroners/medical examiners and some of the information about Dr. Steven Hayne (the Cadaver King from the title).

The thought that most of the pattern matching aspects were not scientific in origin but more developed as investigative techniques was new to me, and in some cases, I'm sure it does make sense.

I guess I expected a bit more court cases information rather than just a narrative that only sometimes focused on the victims of Hayne and West and their processes. ( )
  JenniferRobb | Apr 5, 2018 |
This book is a comprehensive, incredibly well researched exploration of the intertwining of politics, law, justice/injustice, and racism in the deep south.

I read a lot of true crime and sociology, but I've never read a book that explores corruption within our legal system in regards to our coroners and medical examiners. I'm embarrassed to admit that I never considered this angle. The science, we like to think, should be the trustworthy aspect of our justice system. Radley Balko shows us, without question, that all "facts" can be manipulated, or simply eliminated, when convenient.

What I felt while reading this book was total outrage, disgust, and sorrow. The events portrayed are difficult to align with any conception of justice, even as flawed as I knew the system to be.

While I have immense respect for the author's undertaking, I did have some problems with the way the book was put together. The story revolves around Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, as the title suggests, but really this book takes on the entire modern-day political and legal system in rural Mississippi. We have a whole lot of people moving in and out, including judges, lawyers, politicians, medical examiners, doctors, victims, and the accused.

The scope of this book is enormous and at times lacks focus. This was the crux of the problem for me. The author occasionally takes us wandering into areas that are interesting, but not pertinent. For instance, we're given lengthy education on the history of coroners from the time of the Crusades. Throughout the book, we seem to wobble in and out of the timeline, jumping from one case to another, and then over to a side bit, and then on to something else. Keeping up with all the players, their stories, the cases, and the various tidbits makes for an exhausting reading experience.

In fairness to the author, the magnitude of these events had to be difficult to wrangle into a neat and concise story. This was not one or two people caught in corruption; this was the entire system, from its core on out. The entire mess is so badly entangled that unraveling it to find the core problem demands we pull out all the many threads. And so I recommend reading this book because, until you see all the pieces, you won't believe the whole picture could be real.

*I received an ebook copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.* ( )
  Darcia | Mar 10, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Radley Balkoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carrington, TuckerAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Grisham, JohnForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Garceau, PeteCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"A shocking and deeply reported account of the persistent plague of institutional racism and junk forensic science in our criminal justice system, and its devastating effect on innocent lives. After two three-year-old girls were raped and murdered in rural Mississippi, law enforcement pursued and convicted two innocent men: Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks. Together they spent a combined thirty years in prison before finally being exonerated in 2008. Meanwhile, the real killer remained free. [This book] recounts the story of how the criminal justice system allowed this to happen, and of how two men, Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, built successful careers on the back of that structure. For nearly two decades, Hayne, a medical examiner, performed the vast majority of Mississippi's autopsies, while his friend Dr. West, a local dentist, pitched himself as a forensic jack-of-all-trades. Together they became the go-to experts for prosecutors and helped put countless Mississippians in prison. But then some of those convictions began to fall apart. Here, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington tell the haunting story of how the courts and Mississippi's death investigation system--a relic of the Jim Crow era--failed to deliver justice for its citizens. The authors argue that bad forensics, structural racism, and institutional failures are at fault, raising sobering questions about our ability and willingness to address these crucial issues."--Dust jacket.… (more)

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