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Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System

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Innocence Project attorney M. Chris Fabricant presents an insider’s journey into the heart of a broken, racist system of justice and the role junk science plays in maintaining the status quo.

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What people are saying…

“No one in America will ever know the number of innocent people convicted, sent to prison, and even executed because of the flood of rotten forensics and bogus scientific opinions presented to juries. In this intriguing and beautifully crafted book, Innocence Project lawyer M. Chris Fabricant illustrates how wrongful convictions occur, and he makes it obvious how they could be prevented.”
—John Grisham, author of A Time for Mercy

“Fierce and absorbing . . . Fabricant chronicles the battles he and his colleagues have fought to unravel a century of fraudulent experts and the bad court decisions that allowed them to thrive.”
Washington Post

“I believed in the polygraph test, in an unthinking way, right up until last week when I read a new book by M. Chris Fabricant, Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System, which carefully and unarguably explains that almost every forensic science is unreliable, and most are entirely bogus.”
The Spectator

“Few people are more qualified to write about wrongful convictions in the U.S. than M. Chris Fabricant . . . Fabricant’s book shows how faulty ideas from blood spatter analysis to shaken baby syndrome were developed, infected court systems, and ruined a still-untold number of lives.”
Reason

“M. Chris Fabricant’s ground-breaking new work is here to explain (and explain well) what happened, where we went wrong, and how many have paid the price of junk science convictions. Fabricant’s long involved with the Innocence Project lends his book credence and weight, as he details overturned convictions, shoddy research, and the vast egos that underpinned some of the worst work in the history of criminal (in)justice.”
CrimeReads, One of the Best Nonfiction Crime Books of 2022 (So Far)

“Spellbinding . . . Junk Science is a sobering testament to the need for humility—for admitting that our knowledge is limited and fallible—both in science and in the law. Questions of justice are too important to be left to hocus-pocus.”
—Washington Examiner

“Fabricant expertly delves into now-discredited forensic tactics, including bite mark analysis and outmoded methods used in arson investigations, to show how investigators and prosecutors often used pseudo science to put innocent people in prison for decades.” —Texas Observer

“Often riveting, well-researched, and utterly convincing, this book sounds a frightening alarm about unreliable expert testimony in the courtroom.”
New York Journal of Books

One of CrimeReads Best Nonfiction Books of April 2022 and 10 Best Books of the Week

“Speaking of the Innocence Project, Fabricant’s work as its director of strategic litigation has given him unique perspective into how bad science leads to worse results—namely, an untold number of wrongful convictions.”
Original Jurisdiction

One of Kirkus Reviews’ 8 Big New Nonfiction Books from Small Presses

“Eye-opening, endlessly engaging, and equally infuriating—this book is a must-read.”
Booklist

“Inherently fascinating and impressively written, exceptionally well organized and presented . . . Singularly informative, thought-provoking, and critically important.”
Midwest Book Review

“Readers—especially those fond of TV detectives and their infallible crime labs—will be flabbergasted by [Fabricant’s] list of forensic techniques long used by labs, including the FBI’s, and proclaimed by highly paid ‘expert witnesses’ that, when investigated by competent researchers, turn out to be unreliable or worthless . . . A brilliant rebuttal of junk science in the courtroom.”
Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review

“This j’accuse provides a broader look at a deeply disturbing aspect of a criminal justice system already considered racist and biased by many . . . The endemic injustices Fabricant lays bare will likely shake even advocates of robust law and order approaches.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

“Chris’s groundbreaking work for the Innocence Project has exposed the corrosive effect that junk ‘science’ has in our criminal justice system. He’s a brilliant writer and legal mind. A must-read.”
Pamela Colloff

“Fact by fact, case by case, scandal by scandal, M. Chris Fabricant expertly dissects some of the grossest failures of challenged forensic science techniques, providing a hard-nosed insider’s tour of a fifty-year legal war to improve the US criminal justice system. Junk Science is for anyone wanting to go behind the headlines of wrongful convictions, who hungers to probe their root causes, and who is fighting to win criminal justice reform, inside and out of the system. Fabricant writes here like a combatant with a duty to bear witness, burning to teach an adversarial system how to come to terms with scientific truth and to show the monstrous toll of its failures.”
—Spencer S. Hsu, investigative reporter, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist

Junk Science is a powerful exposé of a broken criminal legal system, deeply researched and moving. A must-read for anyone interested in the role unreliable evidence plays in maintaining the status quo.”
—Christina Swarns, executive director of the Innocence Project

“We think that science in the courtroom always serves justice—well, think again! This fascinating book by Innocence Project attorney M. Chris Fabricant shows how junk science in our criminal justice system is used to convict the innocent. Forget CSI and what you think of science in the courtroom, this eye-opening book from the front line of the battle for true justice could not be more urgent.”
—Itiel Dror, Senior Cognitive Neuroscience Researcher, University College London


Description

From CSI to Forensic Files to the celebrated reputation of the FBI crime lab, forensic scientists have long been mythologized in American popular culture as infallible crime solvers. Juries put their faith in “expert witnesses” and innocent people have been executed as a result. Innocent people are still on death row today, condemned by junk science.

In 2012, the Innocence Project began searching for prisoners convicted by junk science, and three men, each convicted of capital murder, became M. Chris Fabricant’s clients. Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System chronicles the fights to overturn their wrongful convictions and to end the use of the “science” that destroyed their lives. Weaving together courtroom battles from Mississippi to Texas to New York City and beyond, Fabricant takes the reader on a journey into the heart of a broken, racist system of justice and the role forensic science plays in maintaining the status quo.

At turns gripping, enraging, illuminating, and moving, Junk Science is a meticulously researched insider’s perspective of the American criminal justice system. Previously untold stories of wrongful executions, corrupt prosecutors, and quackery masquerading as science animate Fabricant’s true crime narrative.

Watch interviews with M. Chris Fabricant on ABC News Live Prime with Linsey Davis, Talks On Law, and Forensic Talks.

Watch M. Chris Fabricant discuss Junk Science at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Listen to M. Chris Fabricant discuss Junk Science on WNYC (New York, NY)’s The Brian Lehrer Show, KCRW (Los Angeles, CA)’s Press Play, Q104.3 FM (New York, NY)’s Sonstein Sessions, Crime and Justice Radio, KJZZ (Phoenix, AZ)’s The Show, Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air (The Ringer), Decarceration Nation, Books on Pod, Citations Needed podcast, Public Defenseless, Wisconsin Public Radio’s The Morning Show, Factually! with Adam Conover, and Criminal.

Watch M. Chris Fabricant’s Gaithersburg Book Festival panel at C-Span Book TV.

Read interviews of M. Chris Fabricant on Slate, The Intercept, and Oxygen.

Read a feature on junk science by The Guardian, featuring an interview with M. Chris Fabricant.

Read a Q&A with M. Chris Fabricant on Publishers Weekly.

Read a Publishers Weekly interview with publisher Johnny Temple discussing Junk Science.

Read a guest post by M. Chris Fabricant on CrimeReads and Page 99 Test.


Book Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Published: 4/5/22
  • IBSN: 9781636140308
  • e-IBSN: 9781636140384

Author

M. CHRIS FABRICANT is the Innocence Project’s Director of Strategic Litigation and one of the nation’s leading experts on forensic sciences and the criminal justice system. Fabricant is featured in the Netflix documentary The Innocence Files and his public commentary has been published in virtually every major media outlet. A former public defender and clinical law professor, Fabricant brings to his writing over two decades of experience ranging from litigating death penalty cases in the Deep South to misdemeanors in the South Bronx. Born in New York City and raised in Sedona, Arizona, Fabricant has lived in Brooklyn since graduating from George Washington University Law School in 1997. He is the author of Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System.

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