This riveting book chronicles and analyzes the amazing Branion murder case in which Dr. John Branion was arrested, tried, and convicted for the December 1967 murder of his wife, Donna. This was a case that caught the imagination of the public, at the time, as the Branions were a prominent family within the African American community in Chicago. I remember seeing a recap of this case on "Unsolved Mysteries" many years later and thinking that it was just about impossible for the doctor to have committed this crime, unless he could have been in two places at once.
The evidence that led to Dr. Branion's arrest was virtually non-existent and wholly circumstantial, fueled by conjecture and speculation. The police work was shoddy, at best, bolstered by faulty memories and a desire to close the case. Dr. Branion was tried in the then notoriously corrupt criminal justice system of Chicago, Illinois. The defense team was spearheaded by an attorney who was astonishingly inept. The prosecution was led by a veteran prosecutor who evidently left his ethics at home everyday before heading off to work. Many years later, the lead prosecutor acknowledged that he knew that Dr. Branion himself could not have committed the murder but prosecuted him any way, as he believed that Br. Branion had paid someone to kill his wife, despite lacking a scintilla of evidence to support such a theory. To compound this travesty of justice further, the trial was presided over by a corrupt judge who took a payoff and who, many years later, was convicted of taking bribes. Need one say more?
The murder of his wife Donna was to begin an undreamt of odyssey for Dr. Branion. After his conviction, he was permitted to be out on bail while pending appeal. For nearly three years, he waited in limbo, until his appeals were exhausted. When his appeals failed, he was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years in prison. He then did the only thing that he felt an innocent man could do, when faced with the prospect of a twenty year sentence for a crime he did not commit. He fled the jurisdiction, a move that would find him spending the next twelve years on the run in Africa until his eventual capture and return to the United States in 1983. He would then spend the next seven years in prison awaiting justice. When it finally came, it was too little, too late.
The author, who together with her husband, a law professor, tirelessly worked pro bono on Dr. Branion's appeals upon his return to the United States, puts together a well researched and persuasive chronicle of Dr. Branion's tragic saga. Well written and comprehensive, this compelling narrative will keep the reader riveted to its pages. It is with good reason that the author was the recipient of the Anthony and Agatha Awards for Best True Crime. Those who enjoy the true crime genre, as well as those who enjoy mysteries, will find the story contained within the pages of this book fascinating. Bravo!