10 true-crime tales to tide you over until the ‘Making a Murderer’ book comes out
On Monday, the attorney of “Making a Murderer” subject Steven Avery announced he is releasing a book about the trial. Jerome Buting, who was featured prominently in the Netflix series, said in a news release that HarperCollins will publish his personal account of what happened in Manitowoc, Wisc., in 2017.
If you can’t wait that long for more tales of injustice, we’ve got great news. Well, not that great: Manitowoc is hardly the only place in America where you can find bad cops, crooked prosecutors or lousy defense attorneys. For many, the justice system has perpetrated injustice.
But it’s good news for readers, at least, because plenty of these stories have been immortalized as books. For your next rage-inducing read, consider one of these.
1. “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
Author Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal services to prisoners and defendants who can’t afford them. His book is a staggering look at who in America typically gets the death penalty. Much of the book centers on the case of Walter McMillian, a black man who became a scapegoat for the local police when the murder of a young white woman went unsolved.
2. “Orange is the New Black” by Piper Kerman
Steven Avery isn’t the first real-life person to get the Netflix treatment. Season 1 of “Orange Is the New Black” is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of her 11 months in prison under mandatory minimum-sentencing laws for decade-old money laundering charges. It’s not quite as salacious as the show, but it does provide a solid overview of the injustices people face behind bars.
3. “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” by Jill Leovy
The murder of an LAPD officer’s son raises complicated questions about who gets justice in neighborhoods where homicides seem to come with the territory. Written by our L.A. Times colleague Jill Leovy.
4. “Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong” by Raymond Bonner
Shortly after the body of an elderly widowed white woman was found in South Carolina, police arrested a black man who had helped clean her gutters. He was semi-literate, intellectually disabled and had no record of previous felonies. Ninety days later, he was given the death penalty for the crime. After 11 years on death row, a young attorney took up his case and tried to clear his name.
5. “Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery” by Robert Kolker
Five women were murdered on Long Island between 2007 and 2010. All of them were prostitutes. All disappeared after meeting with johns from Craigslist. Like most women who engage in sex work, the women came from marginalized backgrounds and troubled upbringings. The fact that it seemed like they were victims of a serial killer didn’t seem to trouble local police, and their murders remain unsolved.
6. “Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongly Convicted and Exonerated” edited by Lola Vollen and Dave Eggers
In first-person narratives, men and women who were jailed for crimes they didn’t commit explain how it happened — and what life was like after they got out again.
7. “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” by Jon Krakauer
Between 2008 and 2012, 350 cases of sexual assault were reported to the police in Missoula, the picturesque college town that plays home to the University of Montana. Jon Krakauer (the nonfiction master who wrote “Into Thin Air,” “Into the Wild” and “Under the Banner of Heaven”) looked at five of those cases and explored why neither the university not the local police seemed to want to get involved.
8. “The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer
The police and the courts got this one right: Gary Gilmore did, in fact, murder two people in Utah in 1976. He was sentenced to death by firing squad, but his execution was delayed or rescheduled on several occasions because of stays filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. Gilmore actually fought to get his execution, saying, “This is my life and this is my death.” Norman Mailer won a Pulitzer for the book, which looks at Gilmore’s early life and America’s cultural and judicial debate over the death penalty in the 1970s.
9. “Life After Death” by Damien Echols
Three teenagers were tried as adults and convicted of murder in 1994 for the 1993 slayings of three Arkansas children. Two of the so-called “West Memphis Three” were given life sentences; the third, Damien Echols, got the death penalty. New DNA evidence produced in 2007 led to the eventual freedom of the three. In this memoir, Echols recounts what happened to him after the investigation and trial, both of which were marred by shoddy police work, dubious evidence and a nationwide public hysteria about devil worship known as the “Satanic Panic.”
10. “The Central Park Five: Chronicle of a City Wilding” by Sarah Burns
Similar to the case of the West Memphis Three, the Central Park Five was a group of teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of a gruesome and widely publicized crime. Each of them spent six to 13 years in prison before a serial rapist confessed to the case and was linked to it by DNA evidence. To find out what happened, author Sarah Burns interviews the wrongfully convicted men, the man who confessed to the crime and the police officers and attorneys involved in the case.
Sign up for our Book Club newsletter
Get the latest news, events and more from the Los Angeles Times Book Club, and help us get L.A. reading and talking.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.