Review: Xanthe Mallett – Reasonable Doubt

Reasonable Doubt
Dr Xanthe Mallett

“We all put our faith in the criminal justice system. We trust the professionals: the police, the lawyers, the judges, the expert witnesses. But what happens when the process lets us down and the wrong person ends up in jail? … Exposing false confessions, polices biases, misplaced evidence and dodgy science, Reasonable Doubt is an expert’s account of the murky underbelly of our justice system – and the way it affects us all.”

This book was both interesting and problematic. I wasn’t really sure what to do with the information I learnt beyond that forensic science is really cool! once again, I loved the blood splatter analysis. It reminded me fondly of a blood spatter book I read over 5 years ago.

However, the take homes from these stories are that some of the time (or even most of the time!) DNA or other forensic evidence can be interpretted incorrectly or even damaged during analysis. Something that may seem to put someone safely in jail with irrevoccable guilt, can possibly implicate them when they aren’t actually guilty.

Many of these cases come about where people ignored the evidence at hand. Or, they actually got a confession from someone for doing the murder, but then ignore that to put the person they ‘suspect’ in jail. You’d hope that these days people would be trained better to see how these biases arise, but half the time the expert seems to not be the expert. It’s thought-provoking, but also frustrating.

The acknowledgements bring up some questions about the lawyer cracked up on cocaine being the author’s friend! I read both of Tim Winton-Munro‘s non-fiction works, and while I thougth the first was good, the second was average. Is it just the time when people of that age start writing non-fiction about their lives? What determines who gets a publishing contract. But I digress…

Something cool that I did learn was that people are really bad at recognising people of other ethnic backgrounds. This could otherwise be known as “White people are unconcious assholes”. If you have a witness to a crime and give them a picture of other witnesses they will randomly select someone who looks familiar – regardless of whether they were another bystander or actually the suspect.

There’s lots of dodgy stories where people in positions of authority do idiotic things. I could say everyone should read this book to know what NOT to do if they are ever suspected of homicide. This book needs a tl:dr, since smart people might read the whole thing but it’s not necessarily the smart people that are the problem.

The takeaways I got was that even if you know you are innocent don’t tell them anything! Police will absolutely lie to your face if it gets them the outcome they want. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Let’s just hope that I never end up on the scene of a crime – but then as a Caucasian, blonde hair, blue-eyed slimly built female, I’m probably not going to be a suspect.

Pan Macmillan | 28th July 2020| AU$32.99 | paperback

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