SURVIVING JUSTICE: AMERICA’S WRONGFULLY CONVICTED AND EXONERATED
Edited by Dave Eggers and Lola Vollen with a Foreword by Scott Turow
Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated presents oral histories of thirteen people from all walks of life, who, through a combination of all-too-common factors—overzealous prosecutors, inept defense lawyers, coercive interrogation tactics, eyewitness misidentification—found themselves imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. The stories these exonerated men and women tell are spellbinding, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring.
JUAN MELENDEZ: Juan Melendez moved from Puerto Rico to Delaware at seventeen, and soon found himself struggling to make money and began to hustle on the streets. In 1984, based on the unreliable testimony of an informant, Melendez was convicted of the murder and armed robbery of a man he’d never met. He was extradited to Florida, sentenced to death, and served seventeen years before previously concealed evidence exonerated him. He now heads Juan Melendez Voices United for Justice, an advocacy group, and is an avid anti-death penalty activist and speaker.
GARY GAUGER: Gary Gauger’s parents were murdered on their Richmond, Illinois farm in 1993. Police immediately blamed Gauger. During a grueling interrogation, detectives temporarily convinced Gauger that he had actually committed the crime. He was found guilty and sentenced to death and released three years later. A popular speaker on wrongful convictions, he lives on that same Illinois farm, still contending with the psychological effects of his incarceration.
BEVERLY MONROE: In the early 1990s, Virginian Beverly Monroe was convicted of the murder of her longtime companion, who had in fact killed himself. Her twenty-two year sentence was relatively light, but the case against her was tenuous at best. A police investigator persuaded her to sign a hypothetical statement, later construed as a confession, and then convinced a convicted felon, whom Monroe had never met, to testify against her at trial. After a lengthy and complicated appellate process, Monroe was freed in 2002. She lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.
MICHAEL EVANS & PAUL TERRY: Michael Evans and Paul Terry were seventeen-year-old boys when they were convicted for a rape and murder they knew nothing about. As a result of the testimony of a neighborhood woman seeking to claim reward money, the two were sentenced to 200- to 400-year sentences. Evans maintained his optimism during his time in the most notorious Illinois prisons, but Terry struggled to preserve his sanity. After twenty-seven years, they were exonerated by DNA evidence. Now living in Chicago, they are grown men vastly changed by their ordeals.
JOHN STOLL: In the mid-1980s, a series of child-abuse witch hunts swept California. A flurry of prosecutions and convictions ensued, and John Stoll took the hardest fall. He was charged with molesting his own son and several other boys, and was sentenced to forty years in prison. He served nineteen; in 2004, the boys recanted their testimony. For Stoll, who now lives in Oklahoma, his release didn’t repair the damage, and he no longer speaks with his son, who continues to believe he was molested.
JOSEPH AMRINE: In 1985, Joseph Amrine was accused and convicted of stabbing a fellow inmate at a prison in Jefferson City, Missouri. When it came time for his sentencing, he campaigned for the death penalty, hoping it would draw attention and legal assistance to his case. It did. In 2003, Amrine was released after witnesses, including jailhouse informants and guards, recanted their testimony. He now lives in Kansas City and works with the Public Interest Litigation Clinic legal group as a speaker and outreach coordinator.