Montana Innocence Project Co-Founder and Board Member, Dan Weinberg, shares some of his favorite books about innocence and racial justice to read year round but especially during Black History Month below:
Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy”
I had the good fortune to hear Bryan Stevenson speak at an Innocence Network conference. He was riveting! With him was a man who was freed days earlier from having been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for decades. This book is the firsthand story of Stevenson’s young life, years becoming an attorney, and groundbreaking work freeing the innocent in the south. Stevenson’s determination will change the reader’s world view. The book later became a movie.
Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld, and Jim Dwyer’s “Actual Innocence”
This is the bible for the use of DNA in forensic investigation. More than 220 innocent Black people have been freed with DNA evidence. Of course, the book also clearly shows the fallibility of other forensic methods and how they’re not supported by science. Montana Innocence Project is extremely fortunate to have had Peter Neufeld on our board of directors from the beginning. His guidance cannot be overstated.
Erin Torneo, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, and Ronald Cotton’s “Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption”
Jennifer Thompson erroneously identified Ronald Cotton as the man who raped her at knifepoint. Based on her false ID, Cotton spent over a decade behind bars. Eventually, through the use of DNA, Cotton won his exoneration and freedom. This is a firsthand story of her guilt for having had a false memory and Cotton’s amazing forgiveness. As friends, they produced this book and have publicly shared their story.
Alexandra Natapoff’s “Snitching, Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice”
Professor Natapoff reveals how the use of incentivized jailhouse informants leads to false convictions and police corruption. The result is that the innocent become convicted, the police operate outside of the law, and the truly guilty are not only allowed to go free but are emboldened in the process. This is a scholarly account that includes practical suggestions on how to tighten our laws to prevent the use of snitching.