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Wrongfully Convicted

Guilty Pleas, Imagined Crimes, and What Canada Must Do to Safeguard Justice

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About The Book

A top legal scholar explains Canada’s national tragedy of wrongful convictions, how anyone could be caught up in them, and what we can do to safeguard justice.

Canada’s legal system has a serious problem: a significant but unknown number of people have been convicted for crimes they didn’t commit. There are famous cases of wrongful convictions, such as David Milgaard and Donald Marshall Jr., where the system convicted the wrong person for murder. But there are lesser-known cases: people who feel they have no option but to plead guilty, and people convicted of crimes that were imagined by experts or the police that never, in fact, happened.

Kent Roach, cofounder of the Canadian Registry of Wrongful Convictions, award-winning author, and law professor, has dedicated his illustrious career to documenting flaws in our justice system. His work reveals that the burden of wrongful convictions falls disproportionately on the disadvantaged, including Indigenous and racialized people, those with cognitive issues, single mothers, and the poor.

Wrongfully Convicted raises awareness about wrongful convictions at a time when DNA exonerations are less frequent and the memories of most famous wrongful convictions are fading. Roach makes a compelling case for change that governments have so far lacked the courage to make. They include better legislative regulation of police and forensic experts and the creation of a permanent and independent federal commission both to investigate wrongful convictions and their multiple causes.

Roach’s research and vast knowledge point to systemic failings in our legal system. But he also outlines vital changes that can better prevent and correct wrongful convictions. Until we do, many of the wrongfully convicted are still waiting for the promise of justice. It is an issue that affects all Canadians.

About The Author

Photograph by University of Toronto Faculty of Law

Kent Roach is Professor of Law at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He is the award-winning author of seventeen books, including Canadian Justice and Indigenous Injustice: The Gerald Stanley and Colten Boushie Case (shortlisted for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing). He has also written over 275 articles and chapters published around the world. He served as volume lead for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report on the Legacy of Residential Schools. In 2015, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 18, 2023)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668023662

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Raves and Reviews

“If you think you can imagine yourself being a free and innocent person one day and then an imprisoned and convicted person the next day, you’re fooling yourself. Read this book and find out about some of the people who’ve suffered this unimaginable fate at the hands of our justice system. You’ll learn about how and why it happens, and I’m certain it will surprise people who aren’t familiar with some of the underlying causes of wrongful convictions. This is a plain-language, blunt, and crucial contribution to our ongoing struggle with this profound problem. Hopefully, it will motivate you to join a chorus of voices advocating for changes that are necessary to both try and prevent wrongful convictions from happening and make it fairer to correct them when they do.”
DAVID ASPER, KC, counsel for David Milgaard

“From Canada's top scholar in the area of wrongful convictions comes the most comprehensive and insightful analysis we have seen to date. Roach’s book is a call to action that should be required reading for every person working in Canada’s criminal legal system and every person who cares about justice. Roach’s thoroughly researched and thought-provoking work on the topic of wrongful convictions . . . brings to our attention the many important cases of wrongful conviction in Canada that are largely unknown but demonstrate that we are in dire need of a new system to address wrongful convictions in Canada; we are currently failing the wrongly convicted, and they are languishing in our prisons. This book will become required reading for the students and lawyers that work with the UBC Innocence Project.”
TAMARA LEVY, KC, director of the UBC Innocence Project

"Breaks new ground in unearthing and analyzing Canada’s chilling history of wrongfully convicting the innocent. Hard-hitting, accessibly written, and meticulously researched, Canada’s leading authority in the field has laid bare a plague of investigative error and governmental buck-passing that continues to this day.”
KIRK MAKIN, award-winning journalist

“An extremely readable, panoramic discussion of how the Canadian justice system too often fails, resulting in the innocent being wrongly incarcerated. The nearly 100 case studies of innocence denied are so compellingly chronicled that it was a task to pull my eyes away from the pages.”
WILLIAM DEVERELL, award-winning author of Stung and Whipped

“[This book] will make you sad, angry, and hopeful. Sad because Roach’s detailed account of individual wrongful conviction cases shows how injustice, often casual, wrecks lives, particularly the lives of those who lack the resources to defend themselves despite their innocence. Angry because the Canadian justice system . . . permits this state of affairs. Hopeful, for Roach gives wise and practical suggestions for safeguarding and improving justice in Canada. In particular, we should pay attention to Roach’s powerful warning about 'dirty thinking' structured by cognitive biases, shortcuts, stereotypes, and confirmation bias, thinking that easily infects and distorts the justice system.”
PHILIP SLAYTON, bestselling author of Lawyers Gone Bad and Mighty Judgement

“A needed wake-up call for Canadians about wrongful convictions and what should be done about them.”
BARRY SCHECK, co-founder of the Innocence Project

“Kent Roach uses his expertise on the causes and remedies for wrongful convictions to illuminate dark corners of the Canadian criminal justice system.”
PETER NEUFELD, co-founder of the Innocence Project

“A masterpiece of a wake-up call to all Canadians.”
HARRY LaFORME, Canada’s first Indigenous appellate court judge and former trial judge

Resources and Downloads

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  • Author Photo (jpg): Kent Roach
    Photograph by University of Toronto Faculty of Law
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