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. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist recounts the story of how the criminal justice system allowed this to happen, and of how two men built successful careers on the back of that structure.
“The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, by the Washington Post journalist Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington, a law professor at the University of Mississippi, avoids these generic problems. There is no murder mystery ... The bigotry in our criminal justice system is one of its key features, not an unfortunate bug. Mississippi wouldn’t allow quack science to convict the wrong people if white citizens primarily bore the burden. The namesake 'bad guys' in this book are allowed to exist because their work puts black men behind bars, not in spite of it.
The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist is a welcome wake-up call, and will likely challenge many people’s CSI-fueled perception of forensic analysts as near-infallible seers of truth ... The intertwined stories of Brooks, Brewer, Hayne, and West are easily whipped up into a clear and devastating narrative. But The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist really shines when it reveals exactly how the system contorts itself to protect convictions made possible by pseudoscience ... Hayne and West might not be representative of the broader forensic community, but the justice system that allowed them to flourish is all too familiar.
...a superb work of investigative reporting ... Messrs. Balko and Carrington combine expertise, industry and outrage into a searing narrative. And while one unreservedly hopes that The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist will spur reform in Mississippi’s system of justice, there is reason to doubt it will.