Death and Justice


Death and Justice

Mark Fuhrman's fourth book, Death and Justice: An expose of Oklahoma's death row machine, was published in 2003 by Harper Collins (ISBN 0-06-000917-9). Fuhrman is a retired LAPD detective most notoriously known for his role in the OJ Simpson murder trial. Subsequent to that trial Fuhrman was convicted of perjury and is now barred from serving on the police force in most cities. Since then, he has also published Murder in Brentwood, Murder in Greenwich, and Murder in Spokane. In those books, Fuhrman tells the stories of horrific homicides and applauds the heroic efforts of law enforcement in solving those cases. That is not the case in Death & Justice.

In this book Fuhrman investigates the Oklahoma County's criminal justice system by interviewing major players, including forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist and legendary district attorney Bob Macy, reviewing case files and trial transcripts, and examining police records, and concludes that "catastrophic errors occur in many death penalty cases" (Fuhrman, 2003, page 245). Fuhrman uncovers a plethora of errors, misconduct, and general disregard for life and innocence in Oklahoma County. Despite his history as a strict "law and order" type cop who used to be a fervent supporter of capital punishment, his book details his arguments for why death row in Oklahoma is problematic and needs to be revamped. He focuses particularly on the behavior and unwavering punitiveness of Macy and his "Black Wizard" star of a forensic chemist, Gilchrist. In his investigation into Oklahoma's death penalty machine, Fuhrman documents systematic errors in capital cases, most notably behavior that borders on prosecutorial misconduct (including Macy suborning perjury, inflaming the jury's prejudices, overzealous personal confidence in witnesses and evidence, and withholding evidence), and forensic testimony by Gilchrist that was later discovered to be untruthful, impossible, prejudicial and misleading. Fuhrman notes how the pressure to convict obscured the prosecutor's duty towards justice over conviction; in Oklahoma County, once a case was determined to be a capital case, anything less than an execution was considered failure.

Fuhrman talks not only about the prosecutorial team hiding evidence that could have proved the innocence of defendants, but also about the unwillingness of officials to accept the factual innocence of individuals exonerated and released from OK's death row. Fuhrman puts most of the blame for the problems in Oklahoma on Bob Macy and Joyce Gilchrist. He concludes that many of the prosecutors in OK were incompetent, and were also maliciously and intentionally covering up mistakes, hiding and planting evidence, and ignoring contradictory evidence, but that Macy in particular was a force to be reckoned with, giving "fire and brimstone" closing arguments and often breaking into tears during trial (page 29). Fuhrman argues that it is Macy's legacy within the prosecutors office in Oklahoma County that has caused the rash of wrongful convictions in OK. In particular, Macy's "frontier justice" and win at all costs mentality have permeated the prosecutorial system and have led to a system that tolerates misconduct and perjury. He concludes that in counties like Los Angeles (CA) and Arlington (VA) the death row machine and the criminal justice system works, but that in Southern counties like Oklahoma County or Harris County (TX) the racism and prejudicial attitudes and the desire for revenge cause the system to falter. In order to fix the system in the South, Fuhrman suggests that executions be made public and that jurors no longer have to be "death qualified" (that is, they can be opposed to the death penalty and also sit on a jury in a capital case).


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