WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS CONTAINED IN THIS REVIEW
Warning, reading this book is likely to raise your hackles and ignite your ire.
In 1994, convenience store clerk, 18 year old Heidi Allen, was kidnapped from the store (she was working alone at the time). Her body has never been found.
When local man Gary Thibodeau heard about Heidi’s disappearance from the store, he went directly to the police to see if he could be of any help. He knew he had been in the store and purchased something from Heidi shortly before she disappeared. Little did Thibodeau realize what would happen next.
Through circumstantial evidence, a failed justice system, and law enforcement and local judicial personnel who may have a stake in getting this resolved quickly, Gary Thibodeau and his brother are charged with kidnapping and murder. Gary’s brother is acquitted for lack of any real evidence. Gary, however, with the same evidence, is found guilty and sent to prison.
Twenty years later, criminal defense attorney Lisa Peebles hears about his case and the more she looks into it the more it looks like Thibodeau was railroaded. The prosecution’s withholding of crucial evidence that might exonerate him, the lack of evidence against him alone should be enough to get a new trial. It was never mentioned, for instance, that Heidi had been a police informant and an officer accidently left her name and ‘informant’ note on a piece of paper outside the store where she worked.
Peebles enlists the help of an investigative reporter to do some digging, uncovering evidence (20 years after the fact!) that the police claim did not exist, including the likely whereabouts of Heidi’s remains.
But what seems like it should be a slam-dunk for the defense is an uphill battle just to get a new trial. Meanwhile, Thibodeaux, presented here with compelling evidence to prove he’s innocent, is slowly dying in a prison hospital ward.
This book is like a car wreck – you can’t help but want to see what is happening, even though it disgusts you.
Peebles and O’Brien make a very strong case on behalf of Thibodeaux, and stronger still against those who have maliciously withheld evidence or not investigated properly or have denied Thibodeau his rights. Still, we have to remember that this story is being told from Peebles’ point of view, and as a lawyer, she’s used to arguing strongly to make her client appear innocent. Could so many courts continually have it in for Thibodeau?
I know how I feel after reading this … exhausted and angry. It makes me want to stand up and say something, or do something to right a wrong. But how? What can someone like me do? That’s a big part of the frustration. Gary Thibodeau struggles to be heard in legal court, but thanks to this book, he’ll prevail in the court of popular opinion.
Looking for a good book? Scrapped: Justice and a Teen Informant by Lisa Peebles & John O’Brien is a thorough, in-depth look at the struggles of our legal system just to have an innocent man get a new trial even after the prosecution admits to having withheld evidence. It’s frustrating and activist-instigating.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Scrapped: Justice and a Teen Informant
authors: Lisa Peebles & John O’Brien
publisher: Black Rose Writing
paperback, 486 pages