Information about the author.
Pete Earley’s The Hot House gave America a riveting, uncompromising look at the nation’s most notorious prison—the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas—a book that Kirkus Reviews called a “fascinating white-knuckle tour of hell, brilliantly reported.” Now Earley shows us a different, even more intimate view of justice—and injustice—American-style.
In Monroeville, Alabama, in the fall of 1986, a pretty junior college student was found murdered in the back of the dry cleaning shop where she worked. Several months later, Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian, a black man with no criminal record, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the crime. As McMillian sat in his cell on Alabama’s death row, a young black lawyer named Bryan Stevenson took up his own investigation into the murder of Ronda Morrison. Finding a trial tainted by procedural mistakes, conflicting eyewitness accounts, and outright perjury, he was determined to see McMillian go free—even if it took the most unconventional means…
Former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son-in the throes of a manic episode-broke into a neighbor’s house that he learned what happens to mentally ill people who break a law.
This is the Earley family’s compelling story, a troubling look at bureaucratic apathy and the countless thousands who suffer confinement instead of care, brutal conditions instead of treatment, in the “revolving doors” between hospital and jail. With mass deinstitutionalization, large numbers of state mental patients are homeless or in jail-an experience little better than the horrors of a century ago. Earley takes us directly into that experience-and into that of a father and award-winning journalist trying to fight for a better way.