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.