David L. Strauss Northwestern University Press, 2010 Library of Congress KF224.P36S77 2010 | Dewey Decimal 364.1523092
On December 14, 1955, Darrel Parker arrived at his Lincoln, Nebraska, home to find his wife, Nancy, strangled to death. Although their house was broken into less than a month earlier, the police were unable to find any leads, so their attention turned to Parker. To make their case, the authorities relied on a private interrogation by polygraph operator John Reid of Chicago. Reid’s company, founded in 1947, today provides interviewing and interrogation techniques that the company claims are the most widely used in the world.
Barbarous Souls tells the story of Darrel Parker’s wrongful conviction for Nancy’s murder. Lincoln native David Strauss weaves a shocking true crime story with an exposé of still-prevalent methods of interrogation—methods that often lead to false confessions and the conviction of innocent suspects. After he was convicted, Parker served thirteen years of a life sentence before agreeing to a deal that would free him but not clear his record. It was later discovered that a murderer who died in prison in 1988 had taped a confession to the crime.
A roller-coaster ride in the tradition of John Grisham’s The Innocent Man, Barbarous Souls is a thorough examination of a wrongful conviction based on a false confession, and an illuminating portrayal of a widespread phenomenon that still plagues the justice system.
Editors Rob Warden and Steven Drizin—leaders in the field of wrongful convictions—have gathered articles about some of the most critical accounts of false confessions in the U.S. justice system from more than forty authors, including Sydney H. Schanberg, Christine Ellen Young, Alex Kotlowitz, and John Grisham. Many of the pieces originally appeared in leading magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, The Nation, the New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times.
By grouping the cases into categories—including brainwashing, fabrication, mental fragility, police force, and unrequited innocence—the editors demonstrate similarities between cases, thereby refuting the perception that false confessions represent individual tragedies rather than a systemic flaw in the justice system. These incidents are not isolated; they are, in fact, related, and more shocking for it. But the authors of the articles excerpted, adapted, and reprinted in this collection want more for their subjects than outrage; they want to fuel change in the practices and standards that illicit false confessions in the first place. To this end, Warden and Drizin include an illuminating introduction to each category and recommendations for policy changes that would reduce false confessions. They also include a postscript for each case, providing legal updates and additional information.