Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong by Raymond Bonner


This book belongs in the sub-genre of Black man convicted of a crime where there is minimal evidence, goes to death row, gets new lawyers and continues to fight for justice. This story has been told countless times, and that in and of itself is a searing indictment on the American prosecutorial system.

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This is a lucid, page-turning account of the trials and death row appeals of Edward Lee Elmore, a quiet and mentally challenged African-American man accused of the brutal murder of an elderly white woman in South Carolina in 1982, and the remarkably dedicated legal team that fought for him to have fair representation in court after three separate, grossly mismanaged jury trials. Led by Diana Holt, a lawyer whose own turbulent youth contributed to a fierce commitment to her client, Elmore’s defense winds through nearly three decades of legal maneuverings as suspenseful as the investigation of the mysterious crime itself.

Bonner is skillful in crafting a well researched and thorough narrative to tell Elmore’s story. He won a Pulitzer for this book, so to say its well done is an understatement. Bonner’s style is journalistic, he is direct and presents the details without manipulation. This works well for this book. I want the story and the facts, you can leave the feelings for me to develop on my own.

The only place the book really misses, is that I knew where it was going. Bonner is very formulaic. There is no room for surprise. The book feels more like a train coming down the tracks at you. It keeps going and getting faster, but there is no finesse. It’s all impact. And there is a lot of impact to be had, the law enforcement involved are incompetent (at best) and Bonner relies on that to engage the audience. It leaves the reader enraged, but it doesn’t do much for narrative nuance. If you’re familiar with this genre, you’ll feel like you’ve read this book before, it just has new details.

If you’re new to the genre, it should be pretty captivating. It is also infuriating. That’s the point. Our system is broken and Anatomy of Injustice  is a reminder that there is work to be done.

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 8, 2013)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars
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