The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist

My review of Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington's extraordinary new book  on judicial and racial injustice in Mississippi, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist. A clip:

Dr. Hayne and Dr. West’s activities, the authors argue, reinforced a social order that kept one class of citizen under persecution. In Mississippi, this persecution historically meant the intimidation and murder of African-Americans, specifically young black men.

Mr. Balko, a journalist at the Washington Post, and Mr. Carrington, a defense attorney and the director of the University of Mississippi’s Innocence Project, introduce us to two of these men. In 1990, Levon Brooks, 32, was cooking at a nightclub when 3-year-old Courtney Smith was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered. Two years later, 19-year-old Kennedy Brewer was sleeping when his girlfriend’s daughter, Christine Jackson, also 3, was kidnapped, raped and murdered.

The girls lived a few miles apart. The crimes were nearly identical. It would make sense for the police to look for the same killer. They even had a suspect, Justin Johnson, a known sex offender who was questioned but released. This decision proved catastrophic: Johnson (who later confessed to both crimes) remained free to kill Christine Jackson, while Brooks was sentenced to life. Mr. Brewer was sent to death row. The men spent a combined 30 years in prison before DNA evidence proved their innocence and set them free.

Read the whole review, in the Wall Street Journal