"'The Wrong Carlos': Was an innocent man executed?" features a Q&A with principal author James Liebman, at the Christian Science Monitor. It's by Randy Dotinga.
By design, this book is not a masterpiece of storytelling. It won't keep readers up past their bedtimes or give them chills through thought-provoking prose.
Instead, "The Wrong Carlos" carefully lays out the basic facts of a botched murder investigation and prosecution. Many more details of the case are available on the book's website, providing perhaps the most extensive accessible record of an American death penalty case.
In an interview, lead author and law professor James Liebman talks about what went wrong, how his team uncovered the truth, and what this case means for the debate over the death penalty.
Q: What convinced you to investigate a specific death penalty case?
In 2000 and 2002, we published a big study which showed there was a huge amount of adjudicated errors found in capital cases in the United States by state and federal courts. Essentially, two-thirds of all death verdicts reviewed over a quarter century had been overturned based on serious error.
Proponents say the system is working, and we don't have to worry about the ultimate error of someone being innocent. There's another interpretation. If an airline company or a car company had this level of error, nobody would want to go near them. If there's this much smoke, there's got to be fire.
So we wanted to examine a particular case to see if we could determine the risk of executing the innocent. We went from a statistical study where we were just counting outcomes to making a judgement call about which cases would be interesting to look at.
Dotinga conducted a similar interview with Evan Mandery, earlier this month.