Erle Stanley Gardner is remembered as a best-selling author and the creator of the fictional lawyer Perry Mason, a hard-nosed criminal defense attorney with a penchant for taking on hopeless cases. Mason’s heroic efforts to establish the innocence of his clients—first in novels, then films, radio, and television—captured the imaginations of Americans for four decades. Gardner’s interest in highlighting and reversing miscarriages of justice, however, extended well beyond the realm of fiction into the experiences of real-life defendants. He established “The Court of Last Resort,” a project working on behalf of defendants who had suffered from poor legal representation, misinterpretation of evidence, or the malicious actions of police and prosecutors.
In this podcast, Ian Burney, professor of the history of science, technology, and medicine at the University of Manchester, discusses his new book which explores the methods Gardner and his colleagues used to establish the innocence of those wrongly convicted in an era long before the use of DNA evidence, setting precedents for how we think about establishing innocence up to the present moment.