Arts & Culture
2:59 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

The Innocence Game: A Thriller based on Northwestern University's Innocence Project

Michael Harvey’s newest novel, The Innocence Game, is based on Northwestern University's Innocence Project.

Chicago, the "other" character in Michael Harvey's novels.
Chicago, the "other" character in Michael Harvey's novels.
Credit chenmeister, flickr

It follows three students who are chosen to participate in a special seminar led by one of the school’s most distinguished professors. They find a case where in they suspect that someone on death row might be innocent. After looking deeper they find a couple other cases that might be linked to it where they again uncover the innocence of the convicted. The students come to the conclusion that the individuals convicted have been framed by some members of the Chicago Police Department; detectives, prosecutors and forensic scientists who hope to further their careers by increasing their conviction rates.  But as the three students submerge themselves deeper they find they too are in corruption's deadly grasp.

Harvey’s first goal is to tell a great story but his greater purpose is to illuminate a bigger issue through the telling of the story. One such subject is the idea of justice. Although people in authority who uphold laws are there in principle to serve and protect, in reality the infringement of justice occurs often.  There are many hundreds of wrongful convictions which have been overturned, and Harvey calls that statistic “very disturbing.”

Harvey also regards the incentives for convictions as biased and convenient for prosecutors, cops and forensic scientists alike. Harvey attests that the current structure is “flawed”, because based on the convictions they acquire, promotions that further their own careers soon follow.  The system is most definitely skewed towards the prosecution due to the amount of power they have at their disposal and preconceived notions; a reality that Harvey doesn’t see changing in the future.

Harvey believes “the power of inertia within system”, will prevent its structural change because those at the top are not willing to compromise their own situation or hold on control.

Michael Harvey is the author of The Innocence Game, the first in a series of university mysteries. He is also the author of the Chicago-based Michael Kelly mysteries. A successful novelist, Harvey is also an attorney, an adjunct professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and a documentary filmmaker. He is also the co-creator, writer and executive producer of the Emmy-nominated television series Cold Case Files TMHe lives in Chicago.