Review: The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Tucker Carrington and Radley Belko

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American SouthThe Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South by Radley Balko
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Building off the wrongful conviction cases of two men, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, The Cadaver King and Country Dentist examines the horrifying, modern-day injustices put forth by the courts and death investigation units within the state of Mississippi.

Stemming back to two men, Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, who used faulty science and misleading proclamations in order to gain convictions, this book shines a glaring light on systemic issues within the criminal justice system.

Although the impetus for the narrative is the Brooks/Brewer cases, the book then goes back and provides a history of the coroner system and the use of forensic science in death investigations.

From there we get accounts of the careers of both Hayne and West, the details of which left me cringing. The horrifying and vastly unchecked issues with their work lead to so many botched investigations and trials, it is shocking to think anyone they helped to convict, wrongful or not, could still be held in prison.

Brooks and Brewer spent a combined 30-years in prison, wrongfully convicted, on the shakiest of claims put forth by these two ‘doctors’. If this book doesn’t put fear into your heart, you are made of stronger stuff than I.

I felt the format of this book kept it engaging throughout and provided enough back ground information on the coroner system and forensic science to make an impact. By showing specific cases, it did help to bring these issues to life.

These are real people who have suffered, and continue to suffer, due to a system, that even after an obvious mistake has been made, values protocol, and politics, more than human life.

I applaud the authors for taking on this topic and bringing this story to light. Well done.

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