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The 13 men and women featured in this oral history were sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. Some languished for years on death row. Others were sentenced to life in prison. And yet they consider themselves fortunate. Thanks to their own calls for help and sheer dumb luck, the judicial system grudgingly admitted its mistakes and set them free. Judging from their stories, we can only assume there are many who are not so fortunate. Christopher Ochoa confessed to a murder he did not commit to avoid the death penalty detectives held over his head, while Juan Melendez, who served 17 years, much of it on death row, went to jail because prosecutors buried mounting evidence of his innocence. One by one, these interviews pinpoint lingering problems in our criminal justice system, from the inaccuracy of eyewitness accounts or polygraph tests to the need for better public defenders. But it is the voices themselves that bring home the awful cost of wrongful convictions.

Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated Edited
By Dave Eggers and Lola Vollen

(Voice of Witness/McSweeney's Books, 497 pages) books@orlandoweekly.com

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