PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Once in a while I come across a piece of writing that is so tightly structured that it defies synopsising - the usual practice of this Blog. 'Homer and Harold' (no relation) a collaboration of the Marshall Project, Smithsonian Magazine, and WBUR radio’s All Things Considered, is a case in point. In a note introducing the piece, author Ken Armstrong explains: (Ken Armstrong is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who previously worked at The Seattle Times and Chicago Tribune, where his work helped prompt the Illinois governor to suspend executions and later empty death row. He has been the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.) "Dear Marshallers: Years ago—17 years ago, to be painfully exact—I co-wrote a five-part series on prosecutorial misconduct at the Chicago Tribune. I had spent months researching homicide cases nationwide, finding 381 where prosecutors had secured convictions by concealing evidence suggesting the accused was innocent or by presenting evidence they knew to be false. As a counterpoint to this corrosive misconduct, I brought up a case from 1924 in which a prosecutor, Homer Cummings, had done the opposite: Handed a surefire conviction by police, Cummings had investigated on his own and blown up the police’s evidence, showing how each element collapsed under scrutiny. Dramatic as that case was, I only gave it two sentences. But ever since that series was published in 1999, I’ve been carrying that small anecdote around, wondering if there could be a larger story. And earlier this year I found that there was. In January, in an archive at the University of Virginia, I discovered a second act to the dramatic courtroom scene from the 1920s. Two decades after Homer Cummings saved Harold Israel from almost certain execution, the two men forged one of history’s more unlikely friendships, one that lasted the final ten years of Cummings’s life. This is a story about public service and character. And I have to admit, I may have gotten carried away with it. My initial draft turned those two sentences from 1999 into an opus eclipsing 11,000 words. Bill Keller, our editor-in-chief, informed me that much as he enjoyed the story, he would have enjoyed it much more at half its length. So here you have it: A 5,300-word telling of Homer and Harold, reported in partnership with Smithsonian magazine and WBUR radio’s All Things Considered. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and do let me know your thoughts." Well, Mr. Armstrong, I really enjoyed your opus and I'm sure my readers will as well. After publishing so many posts on prosecutors who see the criminal justice system as a game which they must win at any costs," it is so refreshing to come across a prosecutor who fiercely holds practices and articulates, the highest ideals of the office, without regard to the wrath of the police who laid the charge, the angry media, the malicious masses, and the righteous politicians. A copy of this important, deeply researched, beautifully written story should be posted on every prosecutor's door, and required reading for every law school criminal justice course."
Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;
PS: I consider myself a 'Marshaller.' Some of the finest critical writing and investigative work on the U.S. criminal justice system is to be found on the Marshall Project site. The site is an indispensable research tool, and offers a daily diet of great reads. The Project describes itself as "a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. We achieve this through award-winning journalism, partnerships with other news outlets and public forums. In all of our work we strive to educate and enlarge the audience of people who care about the state of criminal justice." It carries out that challenger extremely well.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/