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.