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Monday, July 8, 2013

READ THIS: The Corruption of Innocence: A Journey for Justice by Lori St John Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

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It's been said that truth can be stranger than fiction. Well, in the case of The Corruption of Innocence, truth is more fascinating, exciting, and thrilling than fiction. In a story that's almost too incredible to believe, we see the struggles of one incredible woman, author Lori St. John, to overturn a death sentence for a man named Joseph O'Dell. Convicted for the brutal rape and murder of a Virgina Beach secretary, O'Dell was an inmate on death row when his story first came to Lori's attention. Having lost both of her parents within the past six years, and also having been recently separated from her husband, Ms. St. John was searching for something to give meaning to her life, when she read about an organization in Princeton, NJ, which freed wrongly convicted persons. Knowing instantly that this was where her path was leading her, she went for an interview and was hired immediately. It was her work there that brought her to Mr. O'Dell's case. Strongly proclaiming his innocence, he was asking for help in overturning his death sentence. Reading his letter was the beginning of what would turn out to be a multi-year journey for Ms. St. John, a journey to save the life of a man she believed with all of her heart had been wrongly convicted. In sorting through the 15,000 of pages of trial transcripts, as well as the thousands of pages of information sent to her by Mr. O'Dell's lawyer, she discovered many alarming things about the case. Inconsistencies abounded. The defense attorney assigned to Mr. O'Dell seemed to be working actively against him at times. Witnesses that could have helped him were ignored or not questioned thoroughly. And, perhaps most alarmingly, the Commonwealth of Virginia seemed more intent upon upholding the conviction than in saving the life of a possibly innocent man. Ms. St. John's passionate struggle to save the life of a man she believed to be innocent is a compelling and thrilling story, one that touched the hearts of many around the world, including Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, and the Italian Parliament, among others, who all joined in her mission to save the life of Mr. O'Dell. A page-turner from start to finish, The Corruption of Innocence is a book that will have resounding effects long after the cover is closed. For every Joseph O'Dell, who actually finds the help to plead their case, how many other possibly innocent death row inmates are there who have nobody to fight for them, who have fallen victim to a broken and corrupt legal system? Here's hoping that one of the legacies left by the work of Ms. St. John is that the legal system faces stronger scrutiny in the future, and that there are far fewer cases where such serious doubts can be raised.

One of the quotes on the book jacket of "The Corruption of Innocence" says that Lori St. John is a "force to be reckoned with."  That is the understatement of this true story of her fight with the entire justice system to declare the innocence of a man convicted wrongfully so. She takes up the banner of his case, and as we read with intense detail the procedure so blatantly presented by the courts, we learn about compassion, frustration, and deception. Bureaucracy is the power behind this cause celebre, and Joseph O'Dell is the victim. As the events circle around the death of a young woman, and the unbelievable prosecutorial sham that shunts Mr. O'Dell finally to the Death House in prison, Lori St. John lays out her involvement, and her dedication. The book reads like one of Ann Rules true crime paperbacks, and will have you on the edge of your seat as you dredge up the past, with months of transcripts, and all of the heraldic force that accompanies Ms. St. John in her quest. From the Pope, Mother Teresa, Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Man Walking fame), to the entire citizenry and Parliament of the Italian Government, Mr. O'Dell had a full camp of supporters. Whether you believe or not, his case presents the very real possibility of being shut up forever because of mismanagement, corruption and deviation on the part of the opposition, in this circumstance, the prosecution. All advocates of the innocent may well take a page from this book as their battle cry, and forge ahead, in spite of unseeming negativity. 

WOW! Reading The Corruption of Innocence was like a roller coaster ride on acid! Remarkably, it is a non-fiction story of one woman’s quest to take down the legal system so that she could keep an innocent man from lethal injection. For twelve years Joe O’Dell sat on death row the only one who truly knew the truth of his innocence or guilt. In all those years he never wavered from proclaiming his innocence of not raping and murdering a woman in Virginia. You know the saying, “you cannot make this s*#@ up!” Nothing could better describe the roadblocks, political corruption and lengths people went through to sabotage a potentially innocent man’s trial. From court to court, to trial to trial, you keep believing that more people in the system are going to do the right thing. I cannot believe the strength of one woman who believed his story and fought to save him. She was able to impact an entire nation, a European country and Mother Teresa. Her courage and determination never faltered. So get reading.


“The Corruption of Innocence: A Journey for Justice” Debuts
The Riveting, Untold Story of Political Corruption in a Highly Controversial 
Case of Innocence and DNA Testing that Stirred International 
Debate Over the Application of the U.S. Death Penalty

Narrative non-fiction unveils how Lori St John’s unwavering determination to prove Joseph O’Dell innocent of capital murder was pivotal in the use of DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongly convicted- and calls into question the integrity of the judicial system and need for 
reform and accountability for prosecutorial and police misconduct. 

A rare opportunity to learn from an insiders perspective how one woman drove her mission for truth to a cause célèbre when she galvanized worldwide support, including the Italian and European Parliaments, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, to save an innocent man from execution. And why this is important to the legal landscape of the current 306 wrongful exonerations in the United States. This rare glimpse at our system will put the spotlight on truth. 

This month readers will gain behind-the-scenes access to the untold story of Joseph O’Dell’s conviction and execution when “The Corruption of Innocence: A Journey for Justice” makes its debut. Lori St John, Esq., founder and director of the Innocence Project at the Rutgers School of Law, shares the riveting details of her years trying to save O’Dell from death, even marrying him to obtain rights to his body to conduct DNA testing that could have exonerated him. O'Dell was the first person to ask for DNA testing to prove his innocence in 1986. The first exoneration with DNA testing occurred in 1989. 

“The Corruption of Innocence” details for the first time the underlying politics behind the case against O’Dell, containing information St John discovered during her investigation that has remained unknown to the public. Chilling details of the withholding of evidence will create a platform for discussion on how we can improve our judiciary system. 

“I wrote this book to urge change in this country’s criminal justice system and promote the need for accountability for prosecutorial and police misconduct,” says St John. “It is my desire to help achieve a more integral system and outline how and why prosecutors who feel they are above the law should face criminal charges for withholding evidence of innocence, such as the recent case of Michael Morton in Texas, where in a landmark decision a judge found the prosecutor criminally responsible for withholding exculpatory evidence.”

A fascinating and inspiring story, St John, a volunteer crusading on O’Dell’s behalf, brought DNA testing to the forefront and inspired changes in the law regarding access to DNA testing. Since her efforts, more than 300 incarcerated prisoners with claims of innocence have been freed.

During her journey to free O’Dell, St John enlisted legal and scientific experts, scholars, celebrities, worldwide honorary dignitaries, and religious organizations to champion his cause. 

“When I started to gain momentum and reveal prosecutorial lies and a trial by ambush, I ignored the legal establishment’s attempt to silence me,” St John says. “That attempt included the prosecutor’s effort to silence media outlets that were ready to expose the truth – the same kind of pressure that has kept other innocent persons imprisoned. Rather than succumb to intimidation and threats by the prosecution I became empowered by it, and inspired worldwide support after a Parliament-sponsored tour of Italy.”

St John continues her long-term mission to inspire others and help them achieve their greatest aspirations by sharing her true and tragic story of never giving up on the truth, and the real life drama of trying to save an innocent man from certain death, which had Lori fighting for her own life in the end.

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