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Burned: A Story of a Murder and the Crime that Wasn't

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On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. Their mother, Joann Parks, couldn’t save them but did manage to escape with her own life. She was of course bereft. With emotions exploding her husband accused her of abandoning the children at the scene of the fire when he arrived. It was soon determined that a worn extension cord On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. Their mother, Joann Parks, couldn’t save them but did manage to escape with her own life. She was of course bereft. With emotions exploding her husband accused her of abandoning the children at the scene of the fire when he arrived. It was soon determined that a worn extension cord was the cause of the tragedy. But then doubts arose. As firefighters investigated further, they came to believe that the fire was the result of arson, a heinous crime committed by a wicked young woman who, they argued, had never really wanted to be a mother. Joann Parks was tried and convicted and has languished in prison for the last twenty-five years. But now, as certain investigative methods from that era have been debunked, a pair of young lawyers from the Innocence Project have come to believe that Joann was wrongfully convicted, and that the fire might not have even been caused by arson at all.


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On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. Their mother, Joann Parks, couldn’t save them but did manage to escape with her own life. She was of course bereft. With emotions exploding her husband accused her of abandoning the children at the scene of the fire when he arrived. It was soon determined that a worn extension cord On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. Their mother, Joann Parks, couldn’t save them but did manage to escape with her own life. She was of course bereft. With emotions exploding her husband accused her of abandoning the children at the scene of the fire when he arrived. It was soon determined that a worn extension cord was the cause of the tragedy. But then doubts arose. As firefighters investigated further, they came to believe that the fire was the result of arson, a heinous crime committed by a wicked young woman who, they argued, had never really wanted to be a mother. Joann Parks was tried and convicted and has languished in prison for the last twenty-five years. But now, as certain investigative methods from that era have been debunked, a pair of young lawyers from the Innocence Project have come to believe that Joann was wrongfully convicted, and that the fire might not have even been caused by arson at all.

30 review for Burned: A Story of a Murder and the Crime that Wasn't

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tooter

    This book was really interesting but...there were many times that the author spent too much time on a tangent narrative when a paragraph would have sufficed. I found myself skimming to get to the point and then skimming to get to the end. Extremely well written though!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    It's a critique of Fire Science Forensics much more than it is the core title subject in this book's entirety. In other words, the first half you'll get far more of the title subject (Joann Parks arson case) than you'll get out of the last sections. In fact, the last two sections dealt with cognition of sciences and forensics themselves in fields of DNA, fingerprint evaluations surety etc. etc. Or bite marks, which have been used as identity markers unreliably. And numerous other tangents of pri It's a critique of Fire Science Forensics much more than it is the core title subject in this book's entirety. In other words, the first half you'll get far more of the title subject (Joann Parks arson case) than you'll get out of the last sections. In fact, the last two sections dealt with cognition of sciences and forensics themselves in fields of DNA, fingerprint evaluations surety etc. etc. Or bite marks, which have been used as identity markers unreliably. And numerous other tangents of prisoner release organizations / programs. So, this case is complex and horrific. Yes. And ambiguous. Immensely. Witnesses all across the boards "remembering" varied and opposing things entirely at different junctures of the inquiry, trial, aftermath witness etc. And the Fire "experts" also giving various, changeable and often nearly opposite "reality" judgments. Even down to/ if the fire was a one start or two start possibility. Or if the hamper burned in front of the closed closet door or not. Or if the cuts in the electrical cord could have been made successfully by a 4 year old. Nearly every prime criteria object was moved or obliterated during the process of the fire fighters "finding" the kids- quite afterwards too. The entire scene seems botched and the most important pieces discarded. That's the only sure thing I got out of reading this entire long "convincing" treatise. But the book, although it covers the case of the title (Parks has been in jail for nearly 3 decades now) at immense length and roundabout- it still makes great groups of definitive factors in Fire Science and in court and police and public "belief" in their verity-even more muddled, if that is possible. More than muddled, some of the reasoning by the author too, also rings of fallacy in several "one case is all cases" kinds of definition. And assuming large clots of judgment (by dozens of principle associates etc. about her, Joann's) "mothering" ability, as well. He cannot have known all cognition in such subjective natures about this woman by all of the jurors, for instance. Or can he assume so universally (as he certainly does) that DNA or fingerprinting is as error prone in verifying individuality as he states. Stats he uses are flawed upon that specific issue, IMHO. Those percentages are not at all equivocating to homicide, arson, violent crime. Property crimes? Perhaps not even there. So by the end of this long, long evidence and Cohen "rescue" (she works to release prisoners who are innocent and yet have been sentenced guilty and the author follows her years and years toward/ of progress with the Parks case)- the author reaches all kinds of tangents and subject matters that truly have little to do with Fire Science Forensics credibility. It's so tragic- and also botched. Botched by fire dept. and police and forensics and especially in what evidence was tossed. Actually it's horrific beyond describing- the entire event in 1989, April in Bell, California. And it STILL in reality also has/ holds few conclusions. The book itself, it's a 2.5 star but rounded up for the proofs given to judgments of "after" fire- those make it 3 stars. Where that field exists presently for exactness (poor proofs are quite often fire "expert" observable if you ever have gone to an arson case court-it IS a gray area) and not for the format or the cohesion to the parts for the whole of this book. Those are 2 star. And I am fairly sure that her (Parks and her husband's) prior history with fire and also the way she acted during and just afterwards at the scene of the fire was held against her. But this entire scientific analysis slant is far, far from convincing me that it was purely an accident. Or that those experts are as far off within electrical study and wider "whole fire event" conclusions as this author believes they are. Those poor kids.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kris - My Novelesque Life

    RATING: 3.5 STARS (Review Not on Blog) Deaths due to a fire aren't as easy to solve, or even that easy to identify as a murder, accident etc. This is a hard case to wrap your mind around especially with it being children that died. Everyone wants justice for the innocence lost, but at what cost? This is a troubled case. Did a young trouble mother kill her own children? People seem to be at opposite ends on what they think about Joann, and the answer changes people to people, time to time. The bigg RATING: 3.5 STARS (Review Not on Blog) Deaths due to a fire aren't as easy to solve, or even that easy to identify as a murder, accident etc. This is a hard case to wrap your mind around especially with it being children that died. Everyone wants justice for the innocence lost, but at what cost? This is a troubled case. Did a young trouble mother kill her own children? People seem to be at opposite ends on what they think about Joann, and the answer changes people to people, time to time. The biggest issue though is whether the deaths is even a murder. Based on the science at that time, it appears that it was a murder. As science, forensic science especially, progresses and more is known it appears that maybe all the evidence is not factual anymore but more of a junk science. This book takes a look at all issues of the case and Joann Park and leaves you wondering what happened that night. This is a well researched book, and can be dry at times, but I did enjoy reading it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    I received this book in a giveaway so I will review it. Unfortunately, I didn't care for it. Sorry, Mr. Humes. My favorite category or genre of books to read are true stories and survivor stories. The first part tells of this mother accused of killing her children in a house fire. Then enters an innocence project to help her after she has already spent many years in jail. The book goes on bogged down in details of the new trial, specialists opinions etc. I skipped over several chunks at this po I received this book in a giveaway so I will review it. Unfortunately, I didn't care for it. Sorry, Mr. Humes. My favorite category or genre of books to read are true stories and survivor stories. The first part tells of this mother accused of killing her children in a house fire. Then enters an innocence project to help her after she has already spent many years in jail. The book goes on bogged down in details of the new trial, specialists opinions etc. I skipped over several chunks at this point. Nothing changes the outcome and there is no climax. Very well researched but boring.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I remember when this happened. I was only 13 but I remember it I guess its just one of them tragedy's that sticks in your mind. I dont feel like the book told us anything that you couldnt look up for yourself as Joann Parks still hast been released and her case is still ongoing ... I feel like this one -The book - was kinda pointless. I remember when this happened. I was only 13 but I remember it I guess its just one of them tragedy's that sticks in your mind. I dont feel like the book told us anything that you couldnt look up for yourself as Joann Parks still hast been released and her case is still ongoing ... I feel like this one -The book - was kinda pointless.

  6. 4 out of 5

    vanessa

    Overall a good listen on audiobook - I learned a lot about fire investigations and specifically about flashover. There are no real answers in this book so maybe the title isn't correct, but any book that features Innocence Project lawyers and that takes a look at the advantages and limitations of forensic science is fascinating to me. Overall a good listen on audiobook - I learned a lot about fire investigations and specifically about flashover. There are no real answers in this book so maybe the title isn't correct, but any book that features Innocence Project lawyers and that takes a look at the advantages and limitations of forensic science is fascinating to me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Clairelouloves

    3.5 stars. A really sad and interesting case. Towards the end I was a little overloaded with facts and forensics, it was gripping to start but became quite a heavy read. Still, I was surprised by the outcome.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Myers

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was fascinating and well-written, and its real content, about the changes in and progress of fire forensics and the idea of forensics/proof/science/truth is fascinating. The case he chose makes perfect sense, given that it has almost all the right components. The big one, however, is missing: an ending. Parks's case hasn't been resolved. Humes tries to work with this, showing the futility of the justice system and the unknowability of innocence and truth, but it felt more appropriate f This book was fascinating and well-written, and its real content, about the changes in and progress of fire forensics and the idea of forensics/proof/science/truth is fascinating. The case he chose makes perfect sense, given that it has almost all the right components. The big one, however, is missing: an ending. Parks's case hasn't been resolved. Humes tries to work with this, showing the futility of the justice system and the unknowability of innocence and truth, but it felt more appropriate for a newspaper article than a book, which I imagine he will want to live on beyond the time Parks's case is over, at which time his book will feel passe.

  9. 5 out of 5

    SouthWestZippy

    Reading any book about the death of children is not a easy read, this book is exceptionally hard to read. Three children were lost due to a fire on April of 1989. The actions of their Mother during and after the fire makes her a suspect target after fire investigators disclose their findings. The story is hidden among the unnecessary details and speculations. To me this will never be a fully told story, secrets were taken to the grave and some will never tell the full truth.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Incredible book about fire investigations and much more regarding evidence and false convictions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I love a good true crime story. This one deviated a little from the conventional ‘who is the murderer?’ vibe but I enjoyed the critique of fire science and arson investigation just as much.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cathi

    This book felt like it could’ve been a great long form article, given the parts of the story that were shared. I found myself thinking, ‘Tl; dr...’ as the main takeaways and narrative can be summarized in a handful of bullet points. I had some of the same feelings that I did when I read A False Report - I’m not sure if some non-fiction books are edited for the majority of their audience (more specifically, which details are elaborated upon- does there need to be a multi-page definition of The In This book felt like it could’ve been a great long form article, given the parts of the story that were shared. I found myself thinking, ‘Tl; dr...’ as the main takeaways and narrative can be summarized in a handful of bullet points. I had some of the same feelings that I did when I read A False Report - I’m not sure if some non-fiction books are edited for the majority of their audience (more specifically, which details are elaborated upon- does there need to be a multi-page definition of The Innocence Project in this book?). So, tl;dr- forensic arson analysis is much like many other forensic analyses- not science and largely subjective (the stats on that will stay with me for a while).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Videoclimber(AKA)MTsLilSis

    I feel that Joann Parks and her children were let down by this book. There was way too much repetition. The author kept bringing up other cases. I felt so frustrated as I wanted to know about this case, not others. As far as if Joann is guilty, I have no clue. I hope she is because of all the time she has spent in jail. I wouldn't recommend this book. There are much better true crime reads available. I feel that Joann Parks and her children were let down by this book. There was way too much repetition. The author kept bringing up other cases. I felt so frustrated as I wanted to know about this case, not others. As far as if Joann is guilty, I have no clue. I hope she is because of all the time she has spent in jail. I wouldn't recommend this book. There are much better true crime reads available.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Morton

    It's an interesting case but I found the book a little repetitive. It's an interesting case but I found the book a little repetitive.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tara Schoenherr

    as you guys may have heard, our criminal "justice" system is totally fucked as you guys may have heard, our criminal "justice" system is totally fucked

  16. 4 out of 5

    George

    A DEEP DUMPSTER DIVE INTO THE MURKY WORLD OF FIRE FORENSICS. “Thousands of criminal and civil actions had been taken against people based on what amounted to fire mythology.” (p. 57). Edward Humes’s book, Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime that Wasn’t offers a deep dive into the mythology that for decades, in the American justice system, has passed for fire investigation science. Of necessity the story is too steeped in the minutia of fire forensics to ever be compelling reading. It’ll make A DEEP DUMPSTER DIVE INTO THE MURKY WORLD OF FIRE FORENSICS. “Thousands of criminal and civil actions had been taken against people based on what amounted to fire mythology.” (p. 57). Edward Humes’s book, Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime that Wasn’t offers a deep dive into the mythology that for decades, in the American justice system, has passed for fire investigation science. Of necessity the story is too steeped in the minutia of fire forensics to ever be compelling reading. It’ll make your head spin with unanswered questions; but it might not help resolve much. Recommendation: Three decades later, three children—infants, really—are still dead and their mother sits in prison serving life without parole. Was it all a tragic accident; or a very cold-blooded murder? You might want to read Burned, sift through the ashes yourself, and see if you can decide. “Slow and painful has been man’s progress from magic to law.” (p. 252). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 308 pages

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Hillman

    This was for sure an interesting and enlightening read. LIKED It provoked an emotional reaction from me (outrage at the seemingly broken justice system) Enough quality storytelling to keep me interested (seriously, has Dateline made this into an episode yet?) while never feeling like it was veering into fiction. Well researched. I feel like I learned several interesting facts (about fire but also about Mesmer and King Louis and Ben Franklin - that story distracted me and I will likely be going off This was for sure an interesting and enlightening read. LIKED It provoked an emotional reaction from me (outrage at the seemingly broken justice system) Enough quality storytelling to keep me interested (seriously, has Dateline made this into an episode yet?) while never feeling like it was veering into fiction. Well researched. I feel like I learned several interesting facts (about fire but also about Mesmer and King Louis and Ben Franklin - that story distracted me and I will likely be going off on a brain-tangent now while I learn more about that little piece of history) DISLIKED I felt like I had to slog through it, but I truly think that’s more a reflection of my tastes and reading style than on the writing. I am absolutely getting a fire extinguisher now. I think I’ll be extra paranoid about fires now for a while...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Listened as an audiobook. Overall interesting. A fire investigation in a small town- was it truly an objective investigation? Our expectations of a Mother’s role in protecting her children- a glimpse into human reaction. The evolution of science in the criminal justice system- what is our role as society to accept new information and admit fault? A complex case.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jack Carbone

    I've become very interested in how the criminal justice systems operates, particularly when it comes to convictions of innocent people and the cumbersome process of exonerations and the appeals process. This book deals with a fire that occurred in 1989 where three children died. The mother was charged with arson and murder, was convicted, sentenced to life, and remains in prison. The conviction was based on the investigations of the homicide detectives and arson investigators. About the time the tr I've become very interested in how the criminal justice systems operates, particularly when it comes to convictions of innocent people and the cumbersome process of exonerations and the appeals process. This book deals with a fire that occurred in 1989 where three children died. The mother was charged with arson and murder, was convicted, sentenced to life, and remains in prison. The conviction was based on the investigations of the homicide detectives and arson investigators. About the time the trial the science of fires and arson was evolving which eventually challenged the results of the initial investigation. The "old science" is now classified as "junk science", which is one of the many ways innocent people are convicted in the criminal justice system. This book is the story of the original investigation and trial, an exploration of junk science and how it is embedded in our criminal justice system, and the fight by the California Innocence Project's efforts to free Jo Ann Parks. It is also a cautionary tale about how new information, new science, new evidence in cases like these comes up against conventional wisdom and deeply held beliefs, old science, decades old practices, and egos.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I liked this book a lot and thought it was very well-researched and interesting. The title is somewhat misleading since there still aren't any clear answers regarding the cause of the fire in question and whether or not it was set intentionally. I liked this book a lot and thought it was very well-researched and interesting. The title is somewhat misleading since there still aren't any clear answers regarding the cause of the fire in question and whether or not it was set intentionally.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Caitie

    This book was bad, but I didn't find it very compelling either. Frankly, the field of "fire science" is a gray area. The Jo Ann Parks case is an example of a miscarriage of justice. Upon reading about the fire in the Parks home, I found the actions of the police to be very odd. Clearly they believed that it was arson from the get-go. I hope that everything will work out for Jo Ann. This book was bad, but I didn't find it very compelling either. Frankly, the field of "fire science" is a gray area. The Jo Ann Parks case is an example of a miscarriage of justice. Upon reading about the fire in the Parks home, I found the actions of the police to be very odd. Clearly they believed that it was arson from the get-go. I hope that everything will work out for Jo Ann.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: This was a fascinating story with some important take-aways, but it felt light and repetitive. "On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. ... It was soon determined that a worn extension cord was the cause of the tragedy. But then doubts arose. As firefighters investigated further, they came to believe that the fire was the result of arson, a heinous crime committed by a wicked young woman who, they argued, had never really wanted to be Summary: This was a fascinating story with some important take-aways, but it felt light and repetitive. "On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. ... It was soon determined that a worn extension cord was the cause of the tragedy. But then doubts arose. As firefighters investigated further, they came to believe that the fire was the result of arson, a heinous crime committed by a wicked young woman who, they argued, had never really wanted to be a mother. Joann Parks was tried and convicted and has languished in prison for the last twenty-five years. But now, as certain investigative methods from that era have been debunked, a pair of young lawyers from the Innocence Project have come to believe that Joann was wrongfully convicted, and that the fire might not have even been caused by arson at all." (source) This story, like the many recent stories of wrongful convictions, is an important story to tell. It is made more important by its broader message about the fallibility and lack of scientific underpinnings for much of forensic 'science'. I think The Library Book may have mentioned that we now know how difficult it is to correctly determine the cause of a fire. I was more shocked to learn of an FBI study showing that errors are made in as many as 1 in ~300 fingerprint matches. That's so much higher than I would have guessed! And also, why are we even still doing this by hand? Even though this specific case and the lessons to be taken from it are fascinating, the book ended up feeling light and repetitive. It's divided into three sections- the initial investigation; the later investigation and first trial; and the appeal begun by the Innocence Project. Each of these sections covered much of the same ground, in terms of both the stories and the forensics. Although the way this story was told made it seem like there wasn't enough for book, I think more could have been done with it. I'd have loved to get background stories for more of the people involved; more details of the recent science being done by the expert witnesses; and more depth anywhere else the author could add it.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Kochis

    Very disappointing read, I struggled to finish the book. This book is about a fire that happened in 1989. The fire was deemed arson and the mother, of the three children lost in the fire, was convicted of arson and sentenced to life imprisonment. The book tells of the efforts to get a new trial and ultimately the conviction overturned. The author tells of 'junk science' used in the arson investigation and the 'cognitive bias' of the arson investigators. Of course, in almost thirty years evidence Very disappointing read, I struggled to finish the book. This book is about a fire that happened in 1989. The fire was deemed arson and the mother, of the three children lost in the fire, was convicted of arson and sentenced to life imprisonment. The book tells of the efforts to get a new trial and ultimately the conviction overturned. The author tells of 'junk science' used in the arson investigation and the 'cognitive bias' of the arson investigators. Of course, in almost thirty years evidence was destroyed, witness's memories have changed. The book ends with the judge reviewing the appeal with no decision rendered.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    SPOILER ALERT -- This book tells the tragic story of Jo Ann Parks, a young California mother who was wrongfully convicted of arson and the associated triple murder of her children in 1989. She's still in prison. While the story is important and infuriating tale about how cognitive bias in law enforcement (and specifically arson) investigation leads to wrongful convictions, the book often focuses so much on courtroom procedure and investigative reports that the book can be a slow and laborious re SPOILER ALERT -- This book tells the tragic story of Jo Ann Parks, a young California mother who was wrongfully convicted of arson and the associated triple murder of her children in 1989. She's still in prison. While the story is important and infuriating tale about how cognitive bias in law enforcement (and specifically arson) investigation leads to wrongful convictions, the book often focuses so much on courtroom procedure and investigative reports that the book can be a slow and laborious read. Recommended for readers with special interest in law.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    I had the hardest time finishing this book. I only finished it because I had invested so much time into it and wanted to know how it was going to end. In terms of true crime books, there are more exciting and interesting ones out there. I found the author's writing style difficult to read and to follow. I would not recommend the book to anyone. I had the hardest time finishing this book. I only finished it because I had invested so much time into it and wanted to know how it was going to end. In terms of true crime books, there are more exciting and interesting ones out there. I found the author's writing style difficult to read and to follow. I would not recommend the book to anyone.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    I had a hard time finishing this book. Some parts were really interesting and read fast. Other parts seemed to drag on forever, especially the last few chapters. I wouldn’t really recommend it. There are much better true crime books out there.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cecelia

    Skip this one. Starts out talking about Parks and the fire. But, it is really about our flawed legal system and the lack of science in fire investigations. And, by the end of the book, I'm not really convinced she's innocent. It was all very murky. Skip this one. Starts out talking about Parks and the fire. But, it is really about our flawed legal system and the lack of science in fire investigations. And, by the end of the book, I'm not really convinced she's innocent. It was all very murky.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Annie Booker

    Interesting book about a sure fire case of a bungled arson investigation and court case. I could only wonder how on earth Jo Ann Parks was found guilty in the first place. One can but hope she's released sooner rather than later, poor woman. Interesting book about a sure fire case of a bungled arson investigation and court case. I could only wonder how on earth Jo Ann Parks was found guilty in the first place. One can but hope she's released sooner rather than later, poor woman.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    "The justice system is still grappling - rather poorly - with how to respond to this new reality. There is no systemic review of potential forensic errors under way or even contemplated - just case-by-case battles that occur when the California Innocence Project or some like-minded individual or group plucks a case from obscurity and champions an individual convict's cause." - on mistakes made as a result of the lack of scientific analysis of trace evidence. Well-written, much needed account of i "The justice system is still grappling - rather poorly - with how to respond to this new reality. There is no systemic review of potential forensic errors under way or even contemplated - just case-by-case battles that occur when the California Innocence Project or some like-minded individual or group plucks a case from obscurity and champions an individual convict's cause." - on mistakes made as a result of the lack of scientific analysis of trace evidence. Well-written, much needed account of innocent prisoner, Jo Ann Parks. After reading this book and reading some of the other reviews, I wonder how many other Innocence Project based books others have read. I have read quite a few and found this book to be very similarly constructed as others - in fact this one is almost less detailed - however, some people found that the author went off on tangents. Just because a book goes beyond the scope of the original story, does not mean that the author is going off on tangents. It's all connected. Innocence accounts are not JUST the account of that particular case - yes, it's the bulk - but it often includes other information. Information about the flaws in our system. That our investigation techniques need to be revisited and strengthened. That Forensic Science is not always science-based. All of this information is much needed - this is not a typically true crime book over sensationalized like a story you'd find in a tabloid. This is the real deal. I highly suggest that if you just want to know the gossipy events of a story that you remember this is more than just gossip, this is really important, life changing stuff and you absolutely should be concerned with the flaws the author is presenting. Rant done. Yes, this book gets repetitive at the end. Almost word for word. The author was trying to summarize everything for the reader, but since we read it all the chapter before, it was very fresh knowledge. Put this aside, and you have a really solid account of how things can go wrong in the justice system. How something you didn't do could be held against you, how gossip can lead to conviction. "...the Parks case is a textbook example of how failure to exclude extraneous information can lead an investigation astray." Boy, is it ever. In 1992, Jo Ann Parks was convicted of setting a fire that killed her three children. What this account explains is that she was wrongfully convicted. That there was bias in her case. How flawed forensic analysis can be and that even when it's proven that theories have changed, that evidence can be misread, it doesn't mean that a prisoner can have their case retried. What was almost as sad as Parks case and being reminded of all the flaws with our current system , was reading this, "Spurred on by a National Academy of Sciences report on problems with forensics, a presidential commission convened during the Obama administration to find solutions to forensic failures and how to make the various forensic science disciplines stronger. The initiative was canceled by the Trump administration." If you haven't read this book already, consider it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Strong

    In April 1989, Jo Ann Parks was the sole survivor of a terrible fire in her family's rental home that killed her three children. Everyone from investigators to her husband blamed her for the children's deaths, either because she set the fire or because her efforts to save them weren't quick or vigorous enough. She was charged with their murders, convicted, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Was it bias, or shoddy techniques, or faulty science that led investigators to believe In April 1989, Jo Ann Parks was the sole survivor of a terrible fire in her family's rental home that killed her three children. Everyone from investigators to her husband blamed her for the children's deaths, either because she set the fire or because her efforts to save them weren't quick or vigorous enough. She was charged with their murders, convicted, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Was it bias, or shoddy techniques, or faulty science that led investigators to believe so fervently in her guilt? Could the pieces of the ruined structure that firefighters and police tossed out have told a different story? Or was Jo Ann Parks a monster? Eventually, her case lands with a California Innocence Project office, and the committed attorneys begin to piece together, as best they can, what happened that spring midnight nearly 30 years before. The story is more compelling than the book. It deserves a more thorough telling. The organization put me off. It isn't linear. It is sort of chronological, but it's interspersed with information about forensic fire investigations and how they've changed over time that breaks up the narrative. I would have preferred to hear a lot more about Parks's first trial -- I know this book concentrates on the Innocence Project habeas corpus hearing, but background would have reinforced the reasons that those lawyers found holes in the first proceeding. I wanted more of what police found out from interviewing Parks and her husband and neighbors. I wanted more of what fire investigators said at the first trial, and then I wanted to hear about what changed over the years until the Innocence Project took on Parks's case and learned new things from contemporary scientists. Anyway, the story is intriguing, the book is too short, that's about it.

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