8. I Am Troy Davis by Jen Marlowe, Martina Correia-Davis, and Troy Davis
Troy Anthony Davis entering Chatham County Superior Court on Aug. 22, 1991, during his trial. (Image: AP Photo/Savannah Morning News)
It’s been a decade since Troy Davis was executed in Georgia for a crime he always maintained he did not commit. Davis’ case galvanized support from around the world and inspired thousands of advocates to join the anti-death penalty movement. The book provides an intimate view into the loving person Davis was and the racially charged world around him that led to his wrongful execution. Available to purchase here.
9. Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted by Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger
To prepare for her externship at the Innocence Project, Natalie Tamblyn found this collection of stories of wrongful conviction helpful. “I feel it really highlights how important it is for law enforcement to do their homework in investigating crimes but also how important the work we do at the Innocence Project is,” Tamblyn said.
The riveting anthology includes the stories of 14 exonerees as told to mystery and thriller writers, including Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, and Laurie R. King. Available to purchase here.
10. A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essays by Marc Bookman
Marc Bookman has dedicated his career to fighting the death penalty as the executive director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation and a former public defender in Philadelphia. In this collection of essays, Bookman makes compelling arguments to end the death penalty based on the many ways it has shown itself to be flawed, innacurate, racist, and ineffective.
“He weaves an unﬂinching portrait of twelve cases that illustrate in painful detail why the death penalty remains one of the greatest stains on the moral fabric of our society,” Innocence Project board member and ambassador Tony Goldwyn said. “These essays will make your blood run cold.” Available to purchase here
11. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
In Akwaeke Emezi’s whimsical novel, Black transgender teen Jam, is on the hunt for a child abuser in her fictional town of Lucille — inspired by the depiction of similar settings in Toni Morrison’s novels. Jam joins forces with a creature who comes alive from her mother’s painting in her quest to uncover the truth.
“This book is actually about prison and police abolition and what justice could look like in a post-abolition world,” said Lauren Gottesman, Innocence Project staff attorney. “I can’t stop recommending this book to adults even though it’s a young adult book. Available to purchase here.
12. The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
Richard Rothstein, a leading voice in housing policy, ”describes how our government deliberately segregated America,” according to Rebecca Brown, Innocence Project’s director of policy. His book examines how practices intentionally administered through the laws and policy decisions made by our local, state, and federal government continue to harm us today and prevent racial equity, even though redlining policies have been banned. Available to purchase here.
“Blood in the Water”
13. Blood in the Water about the Attica Uprising of 1971 by Heather Ann Thompson
Fifty years ago, over 1,300 people incarcerated in New York’s Attica Correctional Facility organized an uprising to protest years of gross mistreatment within the institution. Imprisoned people held guards hostage while they negotiated for more humane living conditions over the course of four days. On the fourth day, the state sent armed troops to overthrow the revolt, killing 39 people and injuring hundreds. In the end, only those incarcerated were prosecuted, and the state failed to support the families of those they had killed.
In her book, Heather Ann Thompson amplifies the voices of the people impacted by the atrocity and their fight for justice. “It’s riveting and so well researched,” Ed Boland, Innocence Project’s director of development, said of the Pulitzer Prize winning book. Available to purchase here.
14. The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas
In November, Innocence Project clients Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam were exonerated from the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X. Their exoneration was based on evidence that supported their innocence and pointed to other suspects, which the NYPD and FBI hid at the time of their trial. Files unearthed in the investigation into their cases showed that law enforcement had information that could have prevented their wrongful conviction and years of incarceration.
Seeing justice delayed for Aziz and Islam, Natalie Baker, an Innocence Project fellow, was reminded of the government’s killing of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Black Panther Party in Illinois. His murder, orchestrated by the FBI and Chicago police who perceived the Black liberation group as a threat to national security, was depicted in the 2021 Netflix’s film Judas and the Black Messiah. “[It’s] a timely reminder of who actually murdered another revolutionary Black leader and organizer — a powerful must-read,” Baker said. Available to purchase here.
15. Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea Ritchie
Andrea Ritchie’s book examines the racial profiling of and police brutality against Black, Indigenous, and brown women in America, an often overlooked demographic. She focuses on the experience of Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, and Mya Hall, who were all killed by police, and Dajerria Becton and Monica Jones who survived violent and unwarranted altercations with police. Ritchie centers women and trans women’s voices in the larger conversation of mass incarceration and police brutality, ensuring that they are not forgotten.
“This is a critical book in 2021,” said Denise Tomasini-Joshi, Innocence Project’s chief of staff. Available to purchase here.