OverviewThe horrific 1988 murder of four-year-old Barbara Jean Horn shocked the citizens of Philadelphia. Plucked from her own front yard, Barbara Jean was found dead less than two and a half hours later in a cardboard TV box dragged to a nearby street curb. After months of investigation with no strong leads, the case went cold. Four years later it was reopened, and Walter Ogrod, a young man with autism spectrum disorder who had lived across the street from the family at the time of the murder, was brought in as a suspect.Ogrod bears no resemblance to the composite police sketch based on eyewitness accounts of the man carrying the box, and there is no physical evidence linking him to the crime. His conviction was based solely on a confession he signed after thirty-six hours without sleep. "They said I could go home if I signed it," Ogrod told his brother from the jailhouse. The case was so weak that the jury voted unanimously to acquit him, but at the last second—in a dramatic courtroom declaration—one juror changed his mind. As he waited for a retrial, Ogrod's fate was sealed when a notorious jailhouse snitch was planted in his cell block and supplied the prosecution with a second supposed confession. As a result, Walter Ogrod sits on death row for the murder today.Informed by police records, court transcripts, interviews, letters, journals, and more, award-winning journalist Thomas Lowenstein leads readers through the facts of the infamous Horn murder case in compelling, compassionate, and riveting fashion. He reveals explosive new evidence that points to a condemned man's innocence and exposes a larger underlying pattern of prosecutorial misconduct in Philadelphia.
Reviews"Serial and Making a Murderer have focused national attention on the injustices that can result from shoddy police investigations. The public outrage that has been generated by these programs will be eclipsed tenfold by the events that unfold in The Trials of Walter Ogrod. Lowenstein takes readers through the convoluted twists and turns of this case as few true crime writers have ever been able to do." —James L. Trainum, former Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department detective and author of How the Police Generate False Confessions
"The Trials of Walter Ogrod is not only a compelling read and a fascinatingly detailed examination of a grotesquely botched murder case, it is a critically important work that rips the lid off the stew of secrets and lies hiding beneath what most think of as 'criminal justice.' Innocuous terms like 'police and prosecutorial misconduct' take on a new and chilling meaning thanks to Lowenstein's dogged pursuit and thoughtful analysis." —Mike Farrell, author of Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist and Of Mule and Man
"...fans of the Making a Murderer series will be especially outraged by this unjust case." —Booklist
Author BiographyThomas Lowenstein is the founder of the New Orleans Journalism Project, which works with journalism students on stories related to criminal justice issues. He was formerly the policy director and an investigator at Innocence Project New Orleans, an editor at DoubleTake magazine, and a teaching fellow at Harvard. He has contributed to the American Prospect magazine and Philadelphia City Paper. He lives in New Orleans.