True crime is a genre with a lot of sub-categories. There’s serial killers, non-murder crime books, mob/gang crime, cold cases, and most recently miscarriages of justice. John Ferak’s book Failure of Justice falls into that latter category.
It is almost like a twisted season of Fargo (which is a compliment). A woman is brutally raped and murdered in a small Nebraska town (Beatrice). It is every small town in America. The crime goes unsolved for four years. Then deputy of questionable reputation (a failed pig farmer) picks up the case. Through deception and coercion, one suspect after another is forced to turn against others, confession and implicating the others. Only one of these alleged perpetrators digs his heels in and claims his innocence. It is a spiderweb of unfounded accusations and confessions that have nothing to do with the physical evidence. Soon the “Beatrice Six” are convicted on their own mutual words and sent off the prison.
And that’s just the start of the story!
What Ferak does is untangle this complicated plot, one spiderweb strand at a time. What the reader comes to see is that these people, in some cases virtual strangers, have been manipulated by the legal system. It is raw and unfair – and downright scary. This could happen to anyone. When you watch HBO’s outstanding “The Night Of…” it is a mirror of what the Beatrice Six went through.
John Ferak kept me in-line as a reader as he unravels this story – no small task given the complexities of the case and the number of characters involved. Outstanding work here. He takes us through the eventual release of these perpetrators and the pursuit of the real killer.
This is a story of horrific miscarriages (multiple) of justice – of small towns, bitterness, nepotism, and the gritty underbelly of almost every community. I was riveted through the entire book and the level of detail provided is outstanding.
The only thing I can compare this too is Mardi Link’s Wicked Takes the Witness Stand, a similar story in the same sub-genre of true crime.
Failure of Justice should be required reading in law schools as a lesson in what not to do.