23 August 2020

Review: Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthe Mallett

Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthe Mallett book cover
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia *

Dr Xanthe Mallett is back after Cold Case Investigations with a look at solved criminal cases where there is reasonable doubt attached. Dr Mallett looks at miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions where police bias, false confessions, dodgy eyewitness statements and ineffectual science has lead to the wrong person being convicted for a crime.

Given Dr Mallett's position as an Australian Forensic Anthropologist and Criminologist, I assumed we'd start by looking at Lindy Chamberlain's case given the 40 year anniversary of baby Azaria's death. While Dr Mallett does touch on the Chamberlain case in her Introduction, I couldn't help but be disappointed Sue Neill-Fraser's case doesn't rate a mention in her book.* 

Having said that, Dr Mallett clarifies early on that there is an unfortunate abundance of wrongful convictions she could have included:
"For every case I have included there are 100 others I could have chosen, which would have highlighted the same failings and errors that led to an innocent person going to prison." Page 17
In Reasonable Doubt, Dr Mallett provides a detailed look at 6 cases of wrongful convictions and manages to make reference to a range of other cases and examples throughout the course of the book; many outside of Australia.

As in Cold Case Investigations, Dr Mallett includes Expert Inserts to expound on certain elements of the law, investigative process or science to better inform the reader. Of these, I found the section on forensic linguistics to be the most interesting. However, it should be noted that regular consumers of true crime - books, podcasts or documentaries - will already be quite familiar with the content found in these segments.

Reasonable Doubt was an interesting read however the author lost me at the end when she drew a connection between being isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic and trapped at home for our own safety having very little contact with the outside world to being in prison. Umm, no. They're not even vaguely in the same category.

The one thing I do agree on though is a mutual respect and admiration for the work done by those volunteering for innocence initiatives like The Bridge of Hope Foundation based in Melbourne. They do incredible work and the dedication required to work on a case for years without a breakthrough is mind blowing.

My major 'takeaway' from this book was Dr Mallett's overview of the Lawyer X case. I'd seen it all over the news but due to a general lack of interest, had never taken the time to find out exactly what the fuss was all about. Now that I have a general understanding of Nicola Gobbo's transgressions, I'm now equally disgusted with the parties involved.

Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthe Mallett is recommended for true crime newbies and those interested in the wrongfully convicted, and precisely how miscarriages of justice can take place within our criminal justice system.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:

* For more on Sue Neill-Fraser's story, you can check out my review of Death on the Derwent by Robin Bowles.

Would you like to comment?

  1. I think I liked this a little more than you but I agree with your comment about her comparison of lockdown to prison, a little bit of privilege showing there. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. Thanks Shelleyrae, I can go and enjoy your review now that I've published mine :-)


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