Sunday, 4 March 2007

Wrongly convicted man writes of justice reclaimed

March 4, 2007

Wrongly convicted man writes of justice reclaimed

By STEVE WEINBERG, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Some miscarriages of justice never fail to shock, no matter how many times
the saga is repeated. The wrongful conviction of Kerry Max Cook in a Tyler
rape/murder 30 years ago still shocks. And Cook's personal account of his
case, Chasing Justice: My Story of Freeing Myself After Two Decades on Death
Row for a Crime I Didn't Commit, is more shocking than all the news coverage
combined. That's because the saga is not concentrated in a newspaper article
or a magazine story. Instead, it grinds on for more than 300 pages, as
police detectives, sheriff's deputies, prosecutors, judges, jurors, prison
guards and fellow inmates either misperceive the evidence or manufacture it.

It is unusual for a wrongfully convicted person to write a book about his or
her case -- not even a handful of such volumes exist. Cook was just 20 when
he was arrested in 1977; he was not well-schooled and was in many ways
naive, despite a street life that included a nonviolent criminal record. He
is not a smooth writer. Still, the book is clear. The degradation he
suffered is so depressing that it is difficult for even a professional
writer like me to find the appropriate descriptive words.

Wrongful convictions are more common than most laypeople realize. Much of my
time as an investigative reporter is spent studying them. The Cook case is
legendary because it dragged on so long, because he came close to being
executed by the state, because the misbehavior of police and prosecutors was
so egregious, because none of them suffered punishment for their wrongdoing
and because as the true nature of the case became clear, the more likely
suspect (named by Cook) escaped arrest. (The person in question was a highly
educated married man who was the victim's workplace supervisor and lover.)

Wrongful convictions yield many tragedies. One of those is obvious yet
overlooked: The real perpetrator is free to enjoy life, perhaps to strike
again. Yet in case after case around Texas and around the nation, police and
prosecutors' faulty arrest logic too often allows the real perpetrators to
remain free. It certainly made no sense from the opening of the rape/murder
investigation to arrest Cook. The only explanation for the mistake in this
case was the overwhelming desire of police and prosecutors to impress their
constituencies with a quick collar.

Cook says he had a casual sexual encounter with the victim, Linda Jo
Edwards, the same week she was found murdered at the apartment complex where
they both lived. For years, he withheld information about that encounter
from the authorities, a decision that hurt his situation and branded him as
a liar. In the book, Cook confesses his lie and explains it more or less
adequately. The voluminous police, prosecutor and court records back up the
truth of the rest of his saga.

The book allows a few honorable men and women to shine. Most notable is
James McCloskey, who left his careers as a businessman and minister to
investigate wrongful-conviction claims. McCloskey, at his tiny Centurion
Ministries office in Princeton, N.J., takes on fewer than 1 percent of the
cases that come to his attention. Cook won McCloskey's attention and was
able to beat the odds, after spending two excruciating decades in prison,
where he was raped and tortured.

The overturning of one conviction in a criminal justice system that rarely
sets aside mistakes is a miracle of sorts. McCloskey and his Centurion
Ministries colleagues have played major roles in freeing more than three
dozen innocent men and women from Texas prisons and elsewhere.

Cook's saga offers little hope that McCloskey can relax anytime soon.

Chasing Justice

By Kerry Max Cook

William Morrow, $25.95



Source : Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Steve Weinberg is the former executive
director of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc.)

1 comment:

Barbara's Journey Toward Justice said...

Thought you may be interested in this wrongful conviction case.
A man who also needs to be noticed ,is Dennis Fritz. The Other Innocent Man in John Grisham's The Innocent Man, he wrote a book called Journey Toward Justice Published by Seven Locks Press. Dennis Fritz writes his own story and is Endorsed on Jacket by John Grisham which he states as Compelling and Fascinating.
A Companion book to The Innocent Man, Journey Toward Justice by Dennis Fritz. True Crime, Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. Journey Toward Justice is a testimony to the Triumph of the human Spirit and is a Memoir. Dennis Fritz was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder after a swift trail.
The only thing that saved him from the Death Penalty was a lone vote from a juror. Dennis Fritz was the other Innocent man mentioned in John Grisham's Book. which mainly is about Ronnie Williamson, Dennis Fritz's co-defendant. Both were exonerated after spending 12 years in prison.
The real killer was one of the Prosecution's Key Witness. Read about why he went on a special diet of his while in prison, amazing and shocking. Dennis Fritz's Story of unwarranted prosecution and wrongful conviction needs to be
heard. Read about how he wrote hundreds of letters and appellate briefs in his own defense and immersed himself in an intense study of law. He was a school teacher and a ordinary man whose wife was brutally murdered in 1975 by a deranged 17 year old neighbor. On May 8th 1987, Five years after Debbie Sue Carter's rape and murder he was home with his young daughter and put under arrest, handcuffed and on his way to jail on charges of rape and murder.
After 10 years in prison he discovered The Innocence Project, a non-profit legal organization. With the aid of Barry Scheck and DNA evidence Dennis Fritz was exonerated on April 15,1999 Since then, it has been a long hard road filled with twist and turns and now on his Journey Toward Justice. He never blamed the Lord and solely relied on his faith in God to make it through. He waited for God's time and never gave up.

Please view my blog here for more on Dennis Fritz and many issues in his book