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Mean Justice Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bakersfield, California, has earned a reputation for being tough on crime. District Attorney Ed Jagels took much of the credit for the incredible conviction rates in Bakersfield courtrooms, from high-profile child molestation ring busts to cases like that of Pat Dunn, a retired high school principal who was found guilty of murdering his wife--despite a disturbing lack of evidence linking him to the crime. Mean Justice tells Dunn's story compellingly, from his childhood in Bakersfield to the trial that would put him away for life. It chronicles his solid belief in justice and authority and his gradual disenfranchisement with the system that railroaded him for reasons that could only be political.

Humes's exhaustive account also covers prosecuting attorney Ed Jagels's rise to political power and influence and the juggernaut of prosecutorial misconduct that caught many others, along with Dunn, in its fury. But it is at its core the horrifying story of an innocent man who had faith in a system that would eventually destroy him. It's not an easy story to digest, and it is apparently not an isolated incident: Humes brings up case after case where seemingly innocent people were arrested, prosecuted, ostracized, and jailed for crimes that may or may not have even occurred. Mean Justice is a gripping and fascinating book that deserves to be read on many counts. --Lisa Higgins --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Humes (No Matter How Loud I Shout, etc.), a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, builds his condemnation of police corruption, prosecutorial misconduct and political pandering around an account of the successful prosecution of an apparently innocent man, Patrick Dunn, for murdering his wife in Kern County, Calif. It's a compelling narrative of a horrifying story. In describing the events surrounding the Dunn prosecution, Humes delves into the sordid history of Kern County, exposing a ruthless D.A.'s office, which conducted the equivalent of a modern-day witch hunt. Kern County, the site of many spurious child-molestation and Satanic ritual-abuse cases, emerges as a crossroads where the worst abuses of psychotherapy meet the worst excesses of rabid law-and-order conservatism. Humes recounts how literally dozens of people in Kern County have had their convictions overturned on appeal based on shocking prosecutorial abuses. The evidence assembled strongly suggests that prosecutors frequently knew of the defendants' innocence. As a result, Humes's exhaustive account of the unscrupulous Dunn prosecution makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that Dunn was innocent. Humes successfully weaves this story into an overall indictment of the criminal justice system by demonstrating the ease with which police, prosecutors and judges can manipulate the process to convict even the innocent.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671034278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671034276
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,398,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

QUICK STORY: A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Edward Humes' latest books include the upcoming DOOR TO DOOR: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation (coming in April 2016), INSIDE THE SNITCH TANK: A Story of Murder, Misconduct and Justice Delayed, and GARBOLOGY: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash. His other books include the PEN Award-winning NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT: A Year In the Life of Juvenile Court, the bestseller MISSISSIPPI MUD, FORCE OF NATURE: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution, and A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN, my biography of renowned wine maker Jess Jackson.

BACK STORY: When I was six I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I've been at it ever since. I started my writing career in newspapers, and I think I probably would have paid them, instead of the other way around, for the thrill of seeing my first byline in print. As a newspaper reporter, I gravitated toward stories that allowed me to dig behind the scenes and beneath the surface, looking for questions others hadn't asked or imagined. For me, the job amounted to this: license to find out the things I had always wanted to know, about anything and everything that interested, touched or outraged me. Then, within the space and time limitations of a daily newspaper, I had the chance to mold it all into a story to pass onto others. I loved that work.

When I left newspapers to write nonfiction books, I suddenly had weeks or months, rather than hours or days, to immerse myself in the inner workings of the places, characters and events I seek to understand and write about. I had found the greatest job I can imagine.

In my books, I try to take readers inside worlds most don't get to visit or see close up on their own. My first stories were about crime -- real-life murder mysteries-- and I still enjoy reading and writing true crime. But I've pursued broader and more varied narratives in my more recent books. I've written about the nation's crumbling juvenile justice system, the California high school that went from worst to best in the state, the harrowing but surprisingly humane world of a neonatal intensive care unit, the front lines of a modern-day Scopes Monkey Trial, a Gulf Coast murder mystery solved by the victims' own daughter.

Lately - in ECO BARONS, FORCE OF NATURE and GARBOLOGY - I've focused on narratives about the environment and sustainability. I believe this to be the most important story of our age - for ourselves, and for our children.

Now I've turned to the hidden world of how we move ourselves and our stuff in my next book, DOOR TO DOOR.

OTHER WRITING: I've written for numerous publications, including Los Angeles Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Readers Digest, California Lawyer, the Oxford American, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. I have taught writing and journalism at the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, and the University of Oregon.

SPEAKING: I enjoy speaking about my work, and have been invited to address a wide range of groups and organizations:the National Education Summit, the National Steinbeck Center, the ALOUD series, the National Association of District Attorneys, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Dole Center for Politics, the National High School Journalism Conference, the National College Newspaper Convention, the National Association of Teachers of English, the California Department of Corrections, the California Appellate Project, the American Psychology and Law Society, the Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Poynter Institute, the Crichton Club and numerous universities and other schools. I was called to testify about my reporting on juvenile court before the U.S. Senate and a joint session of the California Senate and Assembly. I've had the pleasure of delivering a commencement address at Hampshire College in Amherst, my alma mater, and have enjoyed speaking at venues throughout California as a contributing writer to MY CALIFORNIA, an anthology from which all proceeds were donated to the California Arts Council to support arts and writing programs for the state's school children. I served as a Regents Lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, and taught writing workshops at the University of Oregon graduate program in literary nonfiction.

HONORS: I received a Pulitzer Prize for my newspaper coverage of the military, a PEN Center USA award for NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT, a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for "The Forgotten," my LA Magazine account of life inside Los Angeles's nightmarish home for neglected children, and a Silver Gavel honor for MONKEY GIRL. The Washington Post named SCHOOL OF DREAMS a best book of 2003; the Los Angeles Times named MEAN JUSTICE a best book of 1999.

BORN: Philadelphia.

EDUCATION: Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.

CURRENT WHEREABOUTS: Southern California

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 21, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Another reviewer recommends the rebuttal of this, and I am more than interested in reading that. The other side of the story is needed here. The facts as presented by Humes are just too disturbing if true.
The defense counsel should have protected and served their client - Dunn - much better. The prosecution is going to get away with whatever they can. Bad lawyer jokes aside, who really believes that lawyers don't play to win. I, for one, don't believe seeking justice is the main goal of a trial.
The jury selection process - always critical - was left out. And Dunn wasn't completely railroaded; he did several stupid things to hurt his cause notwithstanding the lack of forensic evidence. Most cases are decided on circumstantial evidence and defendant behavior matters.
Good book; I just need to see the other side of the story before I render my own final judgement.
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I've been interested in issues of criminal justice, particularly those of the witch hunts of the last several years. You know, there was the McMartin trial, a joke of astronomical proportions. Then there were "recovered memory" cases, and those of the alleged Satanic conspiracies. It seems the Prince of Darkness has emissaries here on earth abducting our kids, eating those he's forced us to abort, and on and on and on. Trouble is, as even senior FBI investigators have admitted, there's no evidence to suggest that these atrocities ever took place. No bodies, no dark rooms, no blood. Hmm. Makes a guy wonder.
Then I talked with an acquaintance who's interested in some of the same subject matter. After our discussion, I looked at Amazon.com and found this volume.
First, allow me to confess that I nearly gave the book four stars. I did so only because there is so much detail as to be almost overwhelming. But then I had to give it five (or more, if it were possible!) The detail is more than necessary for reasons which follow.
The text is ostensibly about the trial of Pat Dunn. He was a former high school principal whose wife died under mysterious circumstances. The prosecutors in Kern County, California, were so zealous that they performed what was the TRUE subject of the book: prosecutorial misconduct. That is, indeed, where the subject digressed from merely Pat Dunn. It seems the law enforcement apparatus of that county has a reputation for being "tough on crime." So tough, alas, that there were countless people going to jail. First that was the massive--yes, Satanic Conspiracy trial. Hundreds were sent to jail for a long, long time. The prosecution used dubious questioning tactics of children, social workers who should have been in the local home for the bewildered--again, on and on.
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Format: Hardcover
True crime writer Edward Humes (Mississippi Mud 1994, et al) takes apart the criminal justice system in Bakersfield, California and Kern County. The main story is about Pat Dunn, convicted in 1993 of murdering his wife for her money. The evidence was slight and relied heavily on a heroin addict's testimony, a career criminal who had gotten a deal to testify. Humes makes a good case for Dunn's innocence.
Humes also devotes some serious space to some notorious child molestation/satanic abuse cases prosecuted in Kern County during the eighties and nineties. It's the Little Rascals and McMartin all over again, except worse and prior. There's the usual brainwashing of the children by social workers to get them to tell horrific tales, and a criminal justice system out to satisfy the lust of the mob at any cost. This is very readable and Humes pulls no punches when it comes to going after the prosecutors. It's an irony of our criminal justice system that sometimes in places like this there's a public so quick to convict that they end up sending innocent people to jail, while in other places-I'm thinking of Houston, Texas and the case of Cullen Davis (see Final Justice: The True Story of the Richest Man Ever Tried for Murder (1993) by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith) and of Los Angeles with you know who-we get juries that will not convict regardless of the evidence. Humes is doing the good people of Bakersfield a favor in this book, although I doubt if most of them realize it, because if the system gets too corrupt, the juries will eventually be like the jury that tried O.J.: they'll put the system on trial instead of the defendant and deliver a verdict against it.
This is top drawer true crime written by one the best in the business. In his ability to involve the reader with the story, he's on a par with Ann Rule. In his desire to expose injustice, Humes is like "Sixty Minutes" turboed.
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Format: Hardcover
I know this story is true personally as I turned this office into a higher political power to report inefficiency in one of their departments, which I am withholding the department name out of fear of further retaliation from Mr. Jagels. I received a scathing letter from Mr. Jagel's office accusing me of things that were not true in response to my reporting him. In less than a year, I found myself being accused of a crime that I did not commit. I plead nolo contendre knowing full well that this DA did not like me and I would never receive a fair trial. I prayed for the Lord to seek vengeance for me as I am not a vengeful person. I never knew about this book until months after it was published, but then found out it was published less than a month after my plea of nolo contendre. I truly believe this book is an act of God and will prevail until Mr. Jagels repents of his wrongdoing. If he can't learn on his own, God will teach him. Mr Jagels actions against me drove me to thoughts of suicide, but my faith in God brought me through it. I still have a long way to go, but with God's help, I will heal from this horrible misjustice that was wrought upon me and my family. I pray that no one else suffers at the hands of this office. They say that truth is stranger than fiction and this book proves it. If you are into scary books, this is the one for you. I found it extremely interesting reading. The DA can say that this book is in error a million times over, but now who would expect them to admit the terror that they have caused in this town? He actually hired a poll to see how well-liked he is in this town. It was not very convincing.
Heartbroken and healing in Bakersfield
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