The eight myths to which Mr. Petro refers are:
- Everyone in prison claims innocence
- Our system almost never convicts an innocent person
- Only guilty people confess
- Wrongful convictions are the result of innocent human error
- An eyewitness is the best evidence
- Conviction errors get corrected on appeal
- It dishonors the victim to question a conviction
- If the justice system has problems, the pros will fix them
In Manson v. Braithwaite, the US Supreme Court held that even if eyewitness identification process is unduly suggestive, the testimony will be heard if it meets a five point "reliability" test. Those five points are:
- The witness' opportunity to view the suspect at the time of the alleged crime,
- The witness' degree of attention,
- The accuracy of the witness' prior description of the suspect,
- The witness' level of certainty at the time of identification, and
- The time between the alleged crime and the identification.
Another myth that deserves being addressed is this notion that somehow questioning the legitimacy of a conviction dishonors the victims of the crime. As Mr. Petro points out, if the person convicted of the crime is, indeed, innocent, that means the real perpetrator is still on the loose. A false conviction means that an innocent man suffers, a criminal walks free and other people may have been victimized.
Of course, because the book is also an autobiography, we are subjected to Mr. Petro's political exploits in stunning detail. But, I suppose, anytime the theme of your discourse is taking the other fork in the road, you have to set yourself for the great conversion. Just read the first half of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and you'll see what I mean. It is, however, just a minor quibble, because, no matter how Mr. Petro arrived at that fork in the road, he clearly took the right path.
As a postscript to the book, in December 2010, Dean Gillispie was once again denied a new trial.