The Literature of Wrongful Conviction

Featuring reviews of:

  • Convicting the Innocent: Sixty-Five Actual Errors of Criminal Justice by Edwin M. Borchard (1932)
  • The Court of Last Resort by Erle Stanley Gardner (1954)
  • The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham (2006)
  • The Confession: A Novel by John Grisham (2010)
  • False Justice: Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent by Jim Petro and Nancy Petro (2010)
  • Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong by Brandon L. Garrett (2011)

The King of the Underworld: The Invention of Jelly Roll Morton

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Poetry Feature: Andrea O’Rourke

Featuring the poems:

  • Would It Surprise You I Don’t Like Mornings? [Poem of the Week August 18, 2012]
  • The First Time
  • Wafer-Like and White
  • In the Absence of Grass
  • Sarajevo Cycle: 1992 to 1996
  • Cinema Verité: A Love Story

Poetry Feature: Dan O’Brien

Featuring the poems:

  • The War Reporter Paul Watson on Winning the Pulitzer Prize
  • The War Reporter Paul Watson on Suicide
  • Portrait of the War Reporter Paul Watson as a Young Man
  • The War Reporter Paul Watson Meets Mother Theresa
  • The War Reporter Paul Watson Retells the Story of the Diver and the Goddess
  • The Poet and the War Reporter Paul Watson Go for a Sled Ride [Poem of the Week September 4, 2012]

Poetry Feature: Kimberly Johnson

Featuring the poems:

  • The Trumpetvine Clarions to the Honeybees [Poem of the Week September 18, 2012]
  • Three Lauds
  • A Benediction: On the Tulpenwoede of Seventeenth-Century Holland
  • The Lord God Bird (Campephilus principalis)



Recently I visited the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Eye Museum in Amsterdam, after having reread Richard Ellmann’s biography of James Joyce. Together the exhibit and the Joyce bio reminded me of the risks of an artist’s life. In themes, subject matter and aesthetics both the filmmaker and the writer were courageous almost to the point of foolishness. The risks they took were not for the faint-hearted. Yet overcoming obstacles was hardwired into their personalities, and much of what may have seemed like failure early on became part of their great accomplishment.

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Ostrander at the Door

He stood six-foot two in socked feet, six-three in boots, and his hair was the color of rotting straw.  His father was a former Green Beret who referred to his combat tours as “paid vacation.”  His older brother, James, was an off-the-shelf psycho.  James got shot in the leg one night at Dandy Donuts, drove himself to the hospital, had a doctor remove the bullet from his thigh and inject him with penicillin, drove back to Dandy’s, beat the man who shot him into a coma, then started in on the night-shift workers who’d watched it happen.  So now the father was in prison for trafficking meth and the brother on his way for aggravated battery.  Connolly Ostrander was fourteen at the time.  He dropped out of high school and became a man.

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All Ages Were Represented

I don’t usually ride at night, but here I was setting out at about 9:30 PM. The evening seemed to grow lighter as the rain ended, and a matte-gray sky gave way to fast-moving clouds and a coral-colored sunset. It was cool for June, even by Portland standards, but I warmed up as I rode. I kept to the back streets, riding slowly, riding solo. But when I got within a few blocks of my destination, I saw more and more bicyclers. Two young women passed me on Sandy Boulevard riding no-handed, their arms spread outward like wings. I imagined them as fledglings, too big for the nest, eager to break out and fly.

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The Blue Boot

Starting out, my mother is excited to be driving. She sings along with the radio. The sunlight is yellow and bright on her left arm.  She wears sunglasses and looks like a blonde Jackie O. But as we get closer to my grandmother’s house—past the six-hour mark, maybe seven and a half—after we pass through Iowa and we’re weaving through traffic on the I-880 bypass around the Quad Cities, definitely as we enter Illinois, she becomes visibly more nervous, tapping her nails on her thigh, worrying the cloth of her slacks between two fingers so that the fabric chirps like a cricket. She’s playing her Mother Angelica tapes, and you cannot sing along with a bunch of geriatric nuns who cannot carry a tune in the first place. Listening to their tapes is a form of penance in and of itself, and the fact that my mother has brought the entire set of twelve cassettes angers me. “Why do you have to listen to that?” I snarl. I am nearly eighteen, and snarling comes easily to me.

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New Heaven

I was twenty-seven years old and working a dead-end job in the city when I discovered that my grandmother, who’d died young in 1955, had been a nymphomaniac too.

The full text of this story is not currently available online.