Review: Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthé Mallett

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Reasonable Doubt by Dr Xanthe Mallett
Released: 28th September 2020
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Non-fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
We all put our faith in the criminal justice system. We trust the professionals: the police, the lawyers, the judges, the expert witnesses. But what happens when the process lets us down and the wrong person ends up in jail?

Henry Keogh spent almost twenty years locked away for a murder that never even happened. Khalid Baker was imprisoned for the death of a man his best friend has openly admitted to causing. And the exposure of 'Lawyer X' Nicola Gobbo's double-dealing could lead to some of Australia's most notorious convictions being overturned. Forensic scientist Xanthé Mallett is used to dealing with the darker side of humanity.

Now she's turning her skills and insight to miscarriages of justice and cases of Australians who have been wrongfully convicted. Exposing false confessions, polices biases, misplaced evidence and dodgy science, Reasonable Doubt is an expert's account of the murky underbelly of our justice system - and the way it affects us all.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Perfect for true crime fans, Reasonable Doubt offers a harrowing and well-researched glimpse into the criminal justice process and what can happen when the wrong person pays the price. Detailing six cases of wrongful convictions, Mallett's accounts offer deep yet objective insight into how failings in how evidence is inspected and even investigators' own biases can play out with consequences that reach far beyond the crime itself. What makes this book so readable is that Mallett sets out her perspective in a way that is measured and critiques the outcomes in each of the cases with reference to the view that prosecutors should 'fight hard, but fight fair'. The additional information on forensic techniques and methods of analysis used in the cases was particularly eye-opening for those interested in the science and psychology behind the investigation process.

It also accounts for the vast majority of cases which go to trial and are run successfully - this balanced perspective adds to the credibility of the work as a whole and though clearly not a 'joyful' read, it is a thought-provoking one. Probing techniques such as guilt-testing and even failings to consider all possible routes of evidence and scenarios which could have set the innocent free, it's interesting, and somewhat disconcerting, to think that the scales of justice can be impacted on even the smallest change in how a crime and its suspects are presented.


If you're like me and enjoyed books such as The Secret Barrister, In Your Defence, or are already an established true-crime fan not one to shy away from a hard look at some of Australia's harrowing criminal cases, Reasonable Doubt is for you. This book offers what is a unique and fascinating perspective on perhaps the most fundamental tenet of our justice system which deserves greater scrutiny, that Mallett has done well in adding to with her educated prose.