Every year, columnist David Brooks of The New York Times presents his “Sidney Awards” to examples of fine journalism. (I’m unclear as to the relationship, if any, between Brooks’ Sidney Awards and the Sidney Awards presented monthly by the Sidney Hillman Foundation. Each has led me to reading some tremendous articles, so I’m grateful for both.)
Brooks gave one of his awards this year to Pamela Colloff for her incredible piece “The Innocent Man” in Texas Monthly. Brooks describes it this way: “If you start reading ‘The Innocent Man’ … you will be propelled along by indignation at the arrogance and stupidity of the entire law enforcement system.”
I think he overstates it a bit — “the entire law enforcement system” is not arrogant and stupid. There are many, many good and honorable people working in law enforcement.
Nonetheless, I strongly recommend reading “The Innocent Man.” It paints a frightening picture of how bad police work (intentional or not) and prosecutors who are determined to win, rather than to be agents of real justice, can be just as destructive as the most deranged criminal.