When Justice Fails book jacket

When Justice Fails: Causes and Consequences of Wrongful Convictions

Robert J. Norris, Catherine L. Bonventre, & James R. Acker

Carolina Academic Press, 2018

Order now from CAP and Amazon

Also available as an e-book!



Wrongful convictions have become a prominent concern in state and federal systems of justice. As thousands of innocent prisoners have been freed in the United States in the past few decades, social science researchers and legal actors have produced a wealth of new insights about how and why mistakes occur and what can be done to help prevent further injustices.

When Justice Fails surveys the field of innocence scholarship to offer an overview of the key research, legal, and policy issues associated with wrongful convictions. Topics include the leading sources of error, the detection and correction of miscarriages of justice, the aftermath of wrongful convictions, and more. The volume includes references to historic and contemporary instances of miscarriages of justice and presents information gleaned from media sources about the cases and related policy issues. The book is ideally suited for use in undergraduate classes which focus on wrongful convictions and the administration of justice.


 Exonerated: A History of the Innocence Movement

Robert J. Norris

NYU Press, 2017

Available from NYU PressAmazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, and more!

Also available as an e-book!



The fascinating story behind the innocence movement’s quest for justice.

Documentaries like Making a Murderer, the first season of Serial, and the cause célèbre that was the West Memphis Three captured the attention of millions and focused the national discussion on wrongful convictions. This interest is warranted: more than 1,800 people have been set free in recent decades after being convicted of crimes they did not commit.  

In response to these exonerations, federal and state governments have passed laws to prevent such injustices; lawyers and police have changed their practices; and advocacy organizations have multiplied across the country. Together, these activities are often referred to as the “innocence movement.” Exonerated provides the first in-depth look at the history of this movement through interviews with key leaders such as Barry Scheck and Rob Warden as well as archival and field research into the major cases that brought awareness to wrongful convictions in the United States.  

Robert Norris also examines how and why the innocence movement took hold. He argues that while the innocence movement did not begin as an organized campaign, scientific, legal, and cultural developments led to a widespread understanding that new technology and renewed investigative diligence could both catch the guilty and free the innocent.  

Exonerated reveals the rich background story to this complex movement.


“[An] informative overview of the development of the innocence movement…A useful contribution to an important national conversation about crime and punishment.” –Kirkus Reviews

Exonerated is the first complete and authentic history of the innocence movement. Robert J. Norris shows us how it came into being and how it evolved over the decades. He also shines light on the issues involved and the challenges the movement faces. With his unmatched academic credential, Norris has written a book that will benefit both students and experts of innocence movement.” –The Washington Book Review

“Carefully researched and elegantly written, this book calls attention to the importance of wrongful convictions for the death penalty and beyond. It shows how the criminal justice system is at the heart of efforts to achieve social justice. This is an important book.” -Sister Helen Prejean, author, Dead Man Walking and The Death of Innocents

Exonerated is the first serious, thorough history of the modern innocence movement. A major, innovative contribution to the scholarship on wrongful convictions and a true delight to read.” -Daniel S. Medwed, author, Prosecution Complex: America’s Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent

Exonerated is the definitive account of how the innocence movement transformed public views about the everyday fallibility of the American criminal justice system in the late 20th century, and why preventing the wrongful convictions of the factually innocent remains more important than ever in the 21st century.” -Richard A. Leo, author, The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions and the Norfolk Four

“A timely and important new contribution to the literature, Exonerated is both an accessible history of the recent history of wrongful convictions, and a much needed analysis of the innocence movement as a social movement.” -Simon A. Cole, author, Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification


Examining Wrongful Convictions book jacketExamining Wrongful Convictions: Stepping Back, Moving Forward

Allison D. Redlich, James R. Acker, Robert J. Norris, & Catherine L. Bonventre (Eds.)

Carolina Academic Press, 2014

Available from CAP and Amazon


In Examining Wrongful Convictions: Stepping Back, Moving Forward, the premise is that much can be learned by “stepping back” from the focus on the direct causes of wrongful convictions and examining criminal justice systems, and the sociopolitical environments in which they operate. Expert scholars examine the underlying individual, systemic, and social or structural conditions that may help precipitate and sustain wrongful convictions, thereby “moving forward” the related scholarship.


Examining Wrongful Convictions is a book that has no equal. With full and up-to-date chapters dedicated to the unique vulnerability of adolescents, insufficiently protected; the enabling role of a “muddled” news media, including the internet; the plight of African Americans; the invisible and often pernicious effects of adversarialism; the mechanisms of plea bargaining, now responsible for 97% of convictions; psychological perspectives on miscarriages of justice; public policy implications; and the methods of empirical research that can be used to study innocence; this book is destined to become that kind of book that all judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, criminal justice professionals, and social scientists interested in innocence will find indispensable.” — Saul Kassin, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, The John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NYC

“This book offers the most comprehensive and insightful treatment of wrongful convictions to date. Thanks to the exhaustive nature of this compilation, the reader will miss neither the forest nor the trees. The contributions span disciplines and domains, leading the reader from the level of concrete biases and errors of individual legal actors to structural features of the system that impede its overall performance. The book’s particular strength lies in the latter domain, highlighting the sociopolitical environment—the wars on drugs and crime, the culture of punitiveness, and racial animus—and accentuating the shortcomings of the legal process itself—the plea mill, excesses of adversarialism, prosecutorial culture, stunted discovery rules, and the paltry remedial powers of appellate and collateral review. The book opens the door to further research and to the generation of novel ideas for increasing the accuracy of criminal verdicts.” — Dan Simon, Richard L. and Maria B. Crutcher Professor of Law and Psychology, Gould School of Law, University of Southern California

“We’ve learned a huge amount about wrongful convictions in the past twenty years. It’s impossible to summarize all this work in a single volume, but Examining Wrongful Convictions does a first rate job of surveying the field and peering into the future. A well-written and wide-ranging collection of essays by many of the best scholars in the field, this book is an excellent introduction to the rapidly changing body of research and writing on the causes, the effects and the means of preventing convictions of innocent criminal defendants.” — Samuel Gross, University of Michigan Law School, Editor of the National Registry of Exonerations

“The book lets the reader look at innocence research through a fresh lens, understanding innocence theory, rooted in the past and looking forward, focusing on new issues like innocence and racism, justice system culture, the adversary system, plea bargaining, false confessions, juvenile behavior, and the American punitive wars on drugs and crime. More importantly, the approach of Examining Wrongful Convictions: Stepping Back, Moving Forward helps to formulate a framework of knowledge that learns from the limitations of the past and creates a strong theoretical foundation for the future. This is a guide in all social science studies, not just research on innocence, for integrating science and practice in formulating reform policies.” — Leona Jochnowitz, Criminal Law Bulletin 52 NO 2



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s