October 19, 1996
About the Author
Roger Parloff is a senior writer at FORTUNE, where he covers a wide range of legal issues—from mass torts to intellectual property. Formerly a practicing criminal litigation attorney in Manhattan, he has been a full-time journalist since 1988. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The American Lawyer, Inside.com, New York, Legal Affairs, Legal Times, and Spectrum. He has been a regular contributor to FORTUNE since 2002. Parloff won a National Magazine Award in 1993 for a commentary in The American Lawyer magazine. His March 2002 FORTUNE article about the asbestos litigation crisis—“The $200 Billion Miscarriage of Justice”—was selected for inclusion in The Best Business Stories of the Year. Parloff is also the author of Triple Jeopardy, a non-fiction book about the death penalty. He has a B.A. from Harvard and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
About this Book
n 1973, the two infant daughters of John and Linda Knapp died in a fire in their house near Phoenix, Ariz. The parents were odd: John was a feckless man who had difficulty holding a job and spent much time sleeping or being ill with "headaches"; Linda was a bright woman with severe psychological problems whose home bore testimony to her hatred of housework and who locked her children, ages three and four, out of the house when she couldn't cope with them. The authorities resolved that John had started the fire and, believing that Linda had done it, he confessed. There followed a 19-year odyssey that does no credit to the Arizona judicial system, in the view of Parloff, a reporter for American Lawyer. There were three trials. The first ended in a hung jury, the second in a guilty verdict and a death sentence. Then, a number of lawyers, convinced of John's innocence, entered the case and donated their services. They secured a third trial after discovering prosecutorial misconduct, distortions, evidence "lost" and expert testimony that was, in fact, inexpert. The third trial ended in another hung jury, and in 1992 John was allowed to plead no contest and gain his freedom. A telling argument against capital punishment.