Smoke but No Fire:

Convicting the Innocent of Crimes that Never Happened

“Smoke but No Fire shines a bright light on a criminal justice system that lacks fidelity to the protections at the heart of our democracy. And the consequences are dire, as Jessica Henry vividly illustrates through gripping stories of innocent people who spent years in prison for crimes that never happened at all. This book urges criminal justice actors to recommit to a vision that sees wrongful convictions as an intolerable evil and it is an important wake-up call to professionals complicit in the status quo.”––Jonathan Rapping, founder of Gideon’s Promise, Inc. and author of Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice

“In this thoroughly researched and clearly written book, Jessica Henry meticulously
explains the seemingly inexplicable: how innocent people can be convicted of crimes that did not occur. Smoke but No Fire will stand as the definitive account of this enigmatic type of miscarriage of justice.”––Simon A. Cole, Director, National Registry of Exonerations, University of California, Irvine

“Henry’s riveting book introduces readers to the world of no-crime exonerations. It is truly shocking to learn how crimes can be entirely fabricated through both misconduct and negligence.”––Brandon L. Garrett, author of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong

“Chilling and indispensable, Smoke, But No Fire should be required reading for everyone who cares about the integrity of our criminal justice system. With precision and great clarity, Jessica S. Henry documents the chaos and devastation that wrongful convictions inflict on society, while offering meaningful and workable solutions.”––Gilbert King, author of Devil in the Grove and Beneath a Ruthless Sun

“Henry unpacks a phenomenon few are aware of—the shocking problem of innocent
people convicted of crimes that never actually happened at all. Written in powerful and accessible prose, this is a must read for lawyers, true crime fans, and anyone who cares about justice.”––Mark Godsey, author of Blind Injustice: A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions

The first book to explore a shocking yet all-too-common type of wrongful
conviction—one that locks away innocent people for crimes that never actually

Rodricus Crawford was convicted and sentenced to die for the murder by suffocation of his beautiful baby boy. After years on death row, evidence confirmed what Crawford had claimed all along: he was innocent, and his son had died from an undiagnosed illness. Crawford is not alone. A full one-third of all known exonerations stem from no-crime wrongful convictions.

The first book to explore this common but previously undocumented type of wrongful
conviction, Smoke but No Fire tells the heartbreaking stories of innocent people convicted of crimes that simply never happened. A suicide is mislabeled a homicide. An accidental fire is mislabeled an arson. Corrupt police plant drugs on an innocent suspect. A false allegation of assault is invented to resolve a custody dispute. With this book, former New York City public defender Jessica S. Henry sheds essential light on a deeply flawed criminal justice system that allows—even encourages—these convictions to regularly occur. Smoke but No Fire promises to be eye-opening reading for legal professionals, students, activists, and the general public alike as it grapples with the chilling reality that far too many innocent people spend real years behind bars for fictional crimes.

Jessica S. Henry was a public defender for nearly ten years in New York City before joining the Department of Justice Studies at Montclair State University, where she is Professor and a frequent commentator on national television, on radio, and in print media.


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