My latest book, The Innocence Game, was released today. I’ve included below an excerpt and brief description from the book’s jacket. One fact you’ll only learn here, however, is that The Innocence Game was inspired by several real-life death row cases I worked on as a documentary producer. Check out the Wikipedia page for Odell Barnes, convicted of murder and executed by the state of Texas in 2000. Many people feel Odell was framed for the crime, mostly due to some blood evidence critics contend was planted on Odell’s clothing. The Innocence Game is not based on the Barnes case, but there is a piece of evidence inspired by the case that plays a critical role in the novel. Likewise, there’s a group called the Needle Squad in The Innocence Game. This aspect of the book was inspired by (although not based on) a series of cases coming out of Cook County in the 1980’s. These cases involved a select group of prosecutors, detectives and forensic experts who worked as a team to bang out capital murder convictions. Many of those Cook County cases have subsequently been overturned, with DNA proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the men cuffed and packed off to death row were, in fact, innocent. It would all be hard to believe, if it weren’t all too true. Not coincidentally,Texas and Illinois rank first and second nationally in the number of cases overturned by DNA evidence.
Here’s an excerpt and description of The Innocence Game…
A pair of yellow eyes stared intently up the slope. Toward the cave. The eyes blinked once and a soft moan issued. It was an aching that pricked the back of my neck and clenched my stomach into a fist. His silhouette turned to look at me, as if he’d known I was there all along. Then he was gone.
For Ian Joyce it’s a normal day at the Medill School of Journalism. That is, until another student, Jake Havens, pulls a wrinkled grey envelope from his jacket pocket. Inside is a blood-stained scrap of shirt from a boy murdered over fourteen years ago and an anonymous note taking credit for the killing. The only problem is that a man has already been convicted of the crime and was himself murdered while on death row.
Suddenly, Ian and Jake aren’t working on a regular assignment. Then again, when your class project is to examine old murder files, there’s no such thing as a regular day. Teaming up with a third classmate, Sarah Gold, the students quickly uncover more men convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. As the clock ticks, the questions begin to pile up. Why are innocent men being framed in Chicago? And who’s been getting away with murder?
Ian, Jake and Sarah hunt a serial killer even as they are being hunted by the city’s corrupt police force. As the case starts to unravel, the three students focus not on maintaining their grades, but on simply staying alive.