Synopses & Reviews
The book that helped free an innocent man who had spent twenty-seven years on death row.
In January 1982, an elderly white widow was found brutally murdered in the small town of Greenwood, South Carolina. Police immediately arrested Edward Lee Elmore, a semiliterate, mentally retarded black man with no previous felony record. His only connection to the victim was having cleaned her gutters and windows, but barely ninety days after the victim’s body was found, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
Elmore had been on death row for eleven years when a young attorney named Diana Holt first learned of his case. After attending the University of Texas School of Law, Holt was eager to help the disenfranchised and voiceless; she herself had been a childhood victim of abuse. It required little scrutiny for Holt to discern that Elmore’s case—plagued by incompetent court-appointed defense attorneys, a virulent prosecution, and both misplaced and contaminated evidence—reeked of injustice. It was the cause of a lifetime for the spirited, hardworking lawyer. Holt would spend more than a decade fighting on Elmore’s behalf.
With the exemplary moral commitment and tenacious investigation that have distinguished his reporting career, Bonner follows Holt’s battle to save Elmore’s life and shows us how his case is a textbook example of what can go wrong in the American justice system. He reviews police work, evidence gathering, jury selection, work of court-appointed lawyers, latitude of judges, iniquities in the law, prison informants, and the appeals process. Throughout, the actions and motivations of both unlikely heroes and shameful villains in our justice system are vividly revealed.
Moving, suspenseful, and enlightening, Anatomy of Injustice is a vital contribution to our nation’s ongoing, increasingly important debate about inequality and the death penalty.
"This is a lucid, page-turning account of the trials and death row appeals of Edward Lee Elmore, a quiet and mentally challenged African-American man accused of the brutal murder of an elderly white woman in South Carolina in 1982, and the remarkably dedicated legal team that fought for him to have fair representation in court after three separate, grossly mismanaged jury trials. Led by Diana Holt, a lawyer whose own turbulent youth contributed to a fierce commitment to her client, Elmore's defense winds through nearly three decades of legal maneuverings as suspenseful as the investigation of the mysterious crime itself. Painstakingly researched by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bonner (Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador), the case illustrates in fascinating and wrenching specificity the widely acknowledged inequality and moral failings of the death penalty, while illuminating the less understood details of a criminal justice system deeply compromised by race and class. Indeed, Bonner's ability to succinctly and vividly incorporate the relevant case history and explain the operative legal procedures and principles at work including the bizarre way in which court-acknowledged innocence is not necessarily enough to spare a life on death row makes this not only a gripping human story but a first-rate introduction to the more problematic aspects of American criminal law. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An impassioned and incisive investigation into the many shortcomings of the justice system brought to light in the story of a grievously mishandled murder case in South Carolina that left an innocent man facing execution.
At the age of twenty-three, Edward Lee Elmore, a black man, was arrested after the body of a white widow was found, brutally beaten, in the closet of her home. Elmore was an unlikely killer: semiliterate, mentally retarded with a fifth-grade education, gentle and loving with his family. His connection to the victim was minimal, but barely ninety days after the victim's body was found, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Raymond Bonner gives us an exhaustive account of the particulars of racism, prosecutorial misconduct, inept defense lawyers, and injustice in Elmore's case, which, the author makes clear, occur in courts throughout America. He carefully examines each stage of the initial trial--jury selection, the role of the lawyers and judge, the appeal process--and introduces us to the spirited young female lawyer who, for two decades, fought to get Elmore a fair trial.
Powerfully suspenseful and moving, often enraging, Anatomy of Injustice will be a vital contribution to our nation's ongoing, increasingly vehement debate about justice and inequality.
About the Author
Raymond Bonner practiced law for a decade and taught at the University of California, Davis, School of Law. He later became an investigative reporter and foreign correspondent for The New York Times, where he was a member of a Pulitzer Prize–winning team in 1999, and a staff writer at The New Yorker. He has also written for The Economist and The New York Review of Books, and blogs at the Daily Beast and theatlantic.com. He is the author of Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy, which received the Cornelius Ryan Award from the Overseas Press Club and the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism; and At the Hand of Man: Peril and Hope for Africa’s Wildlife. He lives in London.