The cadaver king and the country dentist : a true story of injustice in the American South

Balko, Radley author
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  • Creator Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington ; foreword by John Grisham
  • Format Books
  • Contributors
  • Publication First edition. New York : PublicAffairs, 2018. ©2018
  • Physical Details
    • xxii, 391 pages ; 25 cm
  • ISBNs 9781610396912, 161039691X
  • OCLC ocn965806090


  • Relates the stories of two innocent men who were wrongly accused and convicted of crimes due largely to the legally condoned failures perpetrated by invalid forensic science and institutional racism. --Publisher.
  • "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."--Jacket.


  • Includes bibliographical references (pages 323-391).


  • The murder of Courtney Smith -- The murder of Christine Jackson -- Investigating the dead -- At the hands of persons unknown -- Setting the stage for the Cadaver King -- Rise of a fiefdom -- The West phenomenon -- Entrenchment -- The trial of Levon Brooks -- Keep that woman under control -- Vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction -- Prayers for relief -- The unraveling -- Redemption and insurrection -- No reckoning
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