Pete Earley's The Hot House gave America a riveting, uncompromising look at the nation's most notorious prison--the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas – a book that Kirkus Reviews called a "fascinating white-knuckle tour of hell, brilliantly reported." Now Earley shows us a different, even more intimate view of justice – and injustice – American-style.
In Monroeville, Alabama, in the fall of 1986, a pretty junior college student was found murdered in the back of the dry cleaning shop where she worked. Several months later, Walter "Johnny D." McMillian, a black man with no criminal record, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the crime. As McMillian sat in his cell on Alabama's death row, a young black lawyer named Bryan Stevenson took up his own investigation into the murder of Ronda Morrison. Finding a trial tainted by procedural mistakes, conflicting eyewitness accounts, and outright perjury, he was determined to see McMillian go free--even if it took the most unconventional means...
``I wanted to show just how difficult it can be in a death penalty case to discover the truth,'' declares Earley (The Hot House), and he proves his point with an engrossing, challenging trip into the labyrinth. Monroeville, Ala., was the fictionalized setting of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird; on Nov. 1, 1986, it was the site of the shooting of an 18-year-old white female store clerk; four months later, another white teenager was murdered in Brewton, 36 miles away. A black man, Walter ``Johnny D.'' McMillian, the boyfriend of a white ne'er-do-well associated with the second teenager's family, was implicated in the murders more than three months later, despite a strong alibi and numerous inconsistencies in witnesses' statements. After McMillian was convicted and sentenced to death, the courageous efforts of Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer devoted to death penalty appeals, reopened the investigation, pried clear some obvious lies in the prosecution's case and, with the help of a 60 Minutes broadcast that laid out the appeal, got McMillian freed. The case remains open, but Earley lays out some alternate theories, as well as hints at possible suspects. A memorable tale of the many points where investigations are fallible.