IPT Book Reviews

Title: Outrage: The Story Behind the Tawana Brawley Hoax   Positive Review
Authors: Robert D. McFadden, Ralph Blumenthal, M. A. Farber, E. A. Shipp, Charles Strum and Craig Wolff
Publisher: Bantam Books 1990

Bantam Books
666 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10103
(212) 765-6500
$21.95
  

Description:

This 400-page book is the story of the Tawana Brawley hoax in which a 14-year-old girl claimed that a group of men had sexually abused her.  The authors, who were reporters for the New York Times, investigated the case.  Neither the medical evidence, nor the FBI expert evidence was able to dissuade the three prosecutors who were eventually appointed to the case.  Finally, a grand jury was convened but Brawley refused to appear and the fabrication was exposed.  The prosecutors admitted they caved in to political pressure.

The book contains a usable index and provides sources.
  

Discussion:

The book is well-written and easy to read and the many descriptions of people and places gives credibility to the account.  The Brawley case is an vivid example of injustice and illustrates how hysteria and political pressure can influence the investigation of a case.  What is discouraging about the case is how quickly the hysteria was used to manipulate the legal process.  The account of mistakes sends chills through those who still believe in our courts, prosecutors, and justice.

To compound the situation, both Vassar College and the Harvard Law School invited Tawana Brawley's attorney to speak.  Then, a man accused by Brawley as being one of the abusers filed a $800 million dollar law suit against Brawley and her supporters.  A professor is quoted at the end of the book, "The game never changes, only the names" (p. 392).

The major criticism of the book is that it is much too long.

Reviewed by LeRoy Schultz, School of Social Work, West Virginia University.

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