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False Justice: Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent Hardcover – January 4, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[False Justice is] an important book, written in straight-forward, unadorned prose, that is deserving of a national audience.”  —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“False Justice is a compelling and important read for anyone concerned with the criminal justice system or perhaps public policy issues in general.” —Toledo Blade

“The law enforcement personage who recognizes the problem of false convictions is a rare and refreshing breed…[i]n my years of research, I have heard only a few prosecutors acknowledge the breadth and depth of the problem. In his new book False Justice: Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent (January, Kaplan), Petro outdoes them all.”  —Steve Weinberg, author of Taking on the Trust

“False Justice is a fascinating and disturbing explanation of how easily our criminal justice system can convict the innocent and the endless challenges involved in finding true justice.”      Anchora Magazine

“Jim Petro reveals in False Justice how the lessons of DNA analysis of crime scene evidence changed his views on criminal justice. Petro became motivated not only to represent the wrongfully convicted but also to change the system. This former prosecutor and state attorney general is an important voice for criminal justice reform.”  —Barry Scheck, Co-founder and Co-director, the Innocence Project, The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University

“The former attorney general of Ohio may be an unusual advocate for overturning wrongful convictions, but he makes a well-reasoned and articulate argument for rethinking the American justice system, where innocent people can be convicted, then exonerated years later by post-conviction DNA testing.”   —Publishers Weekly

“False Justice is an important book, coming as it does from a former attorney general of Ohio and a conservative Republican.”  —Rob Warden, Executive Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern School of Law

“For community groups that discuss books together and in any criminology or criminal justice class, the Petros' book is a rare gem in critical writing about criminal justice. Spread the word.” —Hal Pepinsky, Professor Emeritus, Criminal Justice, Indiana University

“Compelling in its content and engagingly written, False Justice draws upon the lived experience of the first state attorney general to intervene on behalf of a wrongfully convicted prisoner. With a growing awareness of the nature and magnitude of the errors made by our criminal justice system, the Petros take the reader inside a number of actual cases, summarize extensive research on the causes and consequences of wrongful conviction, and expose eight common myths that inspire false confidence in our system of justice and undermine our efforts at reform.”   —C. Ronald Huff, Ph.D., Past-President, American Society of Criminology and co-author, Convicted but Innocent

“When most law-enforcement officials are confronted with an inmate's claim of innocence, they do everything they can to dispute it. Not Jim Petro. When the former Ohio attorney general encountered such a case he spurred the innocent inmate's release, explored how wrongful convictions occur and pushed for reforms. False Justice is the compelling story of his pursuit of true justice. “  —Martin D. Yant, author of Presumed Guilty and Private Invesigator

“The compelling narrative of individual cases highlights the reasons that the system sometimes gets it wrong. Whether it be because of faulty identification, false informant testimony, or other shortcoming, this book presents in very readable format why innocent people get convicted. In addition the book highlights how small and often inexpensive policy reforms can go a long way to addressing the shortcomings.”  —Robert M. Bloom, Professor at Boston College Law Schoo

About the Author

Jim Petro is a former Republican Attorney General of Ohio. Throughout his 35-year career as an attorney and 28-year career as an elected public office holder, he has been publicly committed to strong law-and-order platforms. As Ohio Auditor of State, he and his team cleaned up a corrupt office and performed audits that led to the criminal conviction of an unprecedented 110 public officials in Ohio. His tenure as Attorney General was marked by a nation-leading effort that added 210,000 DNA profiles from Ohio felons and misdemeanants to the national DNA Codis database. This effort resulted in the immediate solving of dozens of cold cases, hundreds over the ensuing months and years.

Nancy Petro has 35 years of full-time experience in marketing, publishing, and business management and has taken an active role in her husband's political career.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing; First Edition edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607144670
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607144670
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The latest in many books about wrongful convictions, and one of the better ones that I have read.

Jim Petro is a former state Attorney General for the State of Ohio, and a law-and-order Republican, so his transformation on this subject should not be dismissed or downplayed. In the true dictionary definition of conservatism, rather than the current political definition, Jim is a seeker of justice, not merely conviction rates.

Jim and Nancy do a wonderful job of outlining the absurdity of what can happen in our justice system. They provide real-life cases and guide the reader step-by-step with 'how' and 'why' the process went wrong. They make rational common-sense suggestions to fix the system.

I will admit that there were times that I felt he was a little too apologetic for law enforcement and prosecutors, but I have to remind myself that just as they sometimes get jaded and believe that everybody is guilty, I have to remember that most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are indeed basically honest and seeking the truth, and that I need to fight from becoming jaded myself. Unfortunately, there are enough "bad apples" that people need to be aware of this issue and we as a society need to seek reform to minimize errors.

However, having said that, I am more convinced than ever that "innocent until proven guilty" is a myth. It just isn't so. The entire system... investigators, district attorneys, judges, even juries... treat people as if they must be guilty of something, lest the defendant wouldn't even be there. We can do better than that.

Of special note, I felt that the 8 Myths presented at the end of the book were a perfect conclusion.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Reading this book was too personal. Jim and Nancy Petro GET IT!! They actually understand! I'm glad they are dedicated to exposing the wrongs. I want to help.
Our family is living this horror of a false conviction, and trying to get the (in)justice system to right their wrong is awful - just as frustrating as described in the book. A dozen of our family have read this book, and we are recommending it and passing around our copies. This is important information for people to read.
Never having any contact with the judicial system, we all had 'dumb' faith that it actually worked. Someone in our family was wrongly accused of murder. A member of the decedent's family-a vindictive, compulsive liar-thought it would be beneficial to be able to file a civil suit and get rich, so lies were concocted and accusations made. See, they first needed a conviction to be able to file a civil suit. (The things we have learned.) The local media was spoon-fed by the prosecution, and it became their story-of-the year(s). Never did reporters talk with the accused or look at another side of this. It's always 'write the negative and sell papers', at all costs. There is no 'presumed innocent until proven..' The average person has no idea how easy it is to make false accusations stick in a court, especially when there is no impartiality.
We assumed the prosecution and judge were there to find the truth, so were not worried about this insane accusation. WOW, is that a wrong assumption! It's all about power and personal gain, (and redemption) and media coverage in 'creating' a sensational (fictional) story. These people formed a lynch mob who became frenzied for attention by convicting an innocent person even though there was no evidence. (This was an accidental death.
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Format: Hardcover
I have rarely been so affected by a book. It's not sensationalist in the least - I need to make that clear. It's written by a no-nonsense, Republican, pro-death penalty former attorney general (of the state of Ohio) and his wife, but it has moved this jaded reader.

False Justice, in 250 short pages (really - it's not dense), covers more topics and astounding problems with the post-conviction (and some pre-conviction) justice system than I can cover in a review, but it'll wake you up.

Look up Dean Gillispie. He's an almost certainly innocent man who's been in prison for more than twenty years (and still is) whose situation the state of Ohio refuses to revisit. Understandably, a conviction requires real respect, or the justice system wouldn't mean so much.

But things switch too much after conviction, and the authors argue persuasively that judges and prosecutors let human nature influence their thinking too much, and get defensive and competitive about not examining old cases.

I'm torn between swapping this on my book swap site (there's a wait list for it), and forcing everyone I know to read my copy while I watch them. The book is that important. I'm also trying to get the National Forensic League (my kid's a high school debater) to create debate topics on this, since the next generation's lawyers and policy makers are disproportionately in that crowd today.

If I can't convince you to read at, will you at least read this next paragraph?

DNA hasn't found all the wrong convictions - all it's done is make evident a real problem in the system. Biological evidence exists for fewer than 10% of cases, and for old cases, even that's often gone or contaminated.
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