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Death and Justice by Mark Fuhrman (Morrow, 288 pages, $25.95) The ritual dance between police officers and prosecutors is almost always complicated. Police officers tend to believe every arrest is clean enough for prosecutors to charge a crime. When prosecutors refuse to charge a crime, or undercharge, police officers label them wimps. Prosecutors, on the other hand, tend to think of police officers as cowboys who worry too little about the realities of legal technicalities. When Mark Fuhrman worked as a homicide detective for the Los Angeles Police Department, he believed he could distinguish between the wimps and those who treated arrestees with the necessary harshness to keep neighborhoods safe. Since leaving the LAPD in disgrace after the O.J. Simpson murder acquittal, Fuhrman has become a prolific author, with a one-track mind. His previous three books all employ murder in the title: Murder in Brentwood, Murder in Spokane, and Murder in Greenwich. The new book does not, but murder is very much on Fuhrman’s mind. Death and Justice features Oklahoma City District Attorney Bob Macy. Although Fuhrman had never met Macy before researching his book, he was familiar with the D.A.’s reputation. That reputation definitely did not include the word wimp. A former police officer, Macy “had an excellent relationship with the rank-and-file cops,” Fuhrman writes. As one defense lawyer told Fuhrman, “If you were a cop in Oklahoma City, you’d be crazy not to like Bob Macy. He filed everything. He sought harsh sentences. And the only charges he didn’t file were against police officers.” Thinking back to his Los Angeles days on the force, Fuhrman says: “I welcomed any prosecutor . . . whose attitude reflected my own � zero tolerance of crime, strong sentencing, the death penalty. Macy’s public statements would have been music to my ears. . . . I also think that if I had had Macy as a DA, I might have gotten sloppy and made some serious mistakes. That’s the risk when everybody thinks the same way, and no one is willing to rock the boat.” Given Macy’s record of “frontier justice,” Fuhrman had reason to believe they would get along fine. But something unexpected occurred. Death and Justice is a transformative book for Fuhrman, and an important book for his audience. Using Oklahoma City as his backdrop, he takes readers on his first-person journey from law-and-order former detective and death penalty advocate to death penalty opponent. The journey started like this: In October 2001, as a Spokane, Wash., radio host, Fuhrman interviewed Oklahoma defense attorney Jack Dempsey Pointer on air: “It’s a mess down here in Oklahoma,” Pointer told Fuhrman. “We’re executing people. We don’t know if they’re innocent or guilty. It’s a regular death factory.” Fuhrman thought Pointer was exaggerating. But at Pointer’s invitation, Fuhrman traveled to Oklahoma City to see for himself. What Fuhrman found was not only Macy but also a pro-prosecution police department forensic chemist named Joyce Gilchrist. After a year of investigating, Fuhrman found himself on Pointer’s side � innocent men and women were being convicted, and even guilty defendants were receiving unfair treatment. Because I just spent three years of my life leading a national study of prosecutors, I knew about Macy and Gilchrist. I also know that outside of Oklahoma, their names are nearly unknown. Unfortunately, they have counterparts in numerous others of the 2,341 local prosecutorial jurisdictions nationwide. Gilchrist did not cooperate with Fuhrman, so she remains an enigma throughout the book. Police forensic scientists gone bad (there are similar dramatic instances in Texas, Illinois, West Virginia, and Montana at minimum) receive little attention � they are not elected officials and, thus, have always been low profile outside of a small circle of law enforcement personnel. Macy, who recently left office before the end of his elected term, eventually did cooperate with Fuhrman. As a result, readers hear Macy’s justifications in his own words. He makes clear it is difficult being an elected prosecutor, because putting criminals in prison is a complicated process filled with rights for the guilty. The trouble is, as former cop Fuhrman has come to realize, when those rights are violated, the guilty sometimes go free on procedural grounds. That serves the community poorly by wasting precious budget dollars, putting dangerous people back on the streets, and sabotaging confidence in the criminal justice system. Furthermore, rights violations by prosecutors such as Macy and pro-prosecution scientists such as Gilchrist can lead to the conviction of innocents, as Fuhrman delineates in case after case throughout his book. That is a shame for more than the wrongly prosecuted individual. It also means that the real perpetrator is at liberty to misperform again. Fuhrman now recognizes the shame of the criminal justice system in some jurisdictions. Because he has come to believe that innocent men and women are convicted on a regular basis, he no longer supports the death penalty. It goes without saying that when an innocent defendant is executed, there is no recourse later. Steve Weinberg is an investigative reporter in Columbia, Mo. His prosecutor study is available through the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C.

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