One Juror's Reckoning
with Racial Injustice
It takes rare courage to go back four decades and revisit your part in convicting a young Black man of a murder he likely did not commit. Carol Menaker makes that harrowing journey, and shares her story, and her hard-won wisdom, in clear, compelling prose. Her struggle is a hopeful reminder that change is possible, but it always has a price.
-- Thomas Dybdahl, Author of When Innocent Isn't Enough
About the Book
The Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done is Carol Menaker’s intimate and eye-opening account of her twenty-one day jury sequestration in the 1976 murder trial of a young Black revolutionary charged with the murders of two white Philadelphia prison wardens. More than forty years after Menaker voted to convict Frederick Burton of murder, she tells a devastating story of uncovering how her naiveté and white privilege may have led her to convict a man whose shoes she never could have walked in. Compiled from historical research and Menaker’s recollections of growing up and coming of age in a predominantly white world, this memoir spells out the fundamental flaws in our criminal justice system and proclaims one juror’s moral imperative to help set things right—nearly a half-century later.
About the Author
Carol Menaker is a writer living in the Sierra Foothills in Northern California, where she retired after a career writing and managing communications for universities and nonprofits. She was raised in a Jewish family in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in theatre arts/acting from Pennsylvania State University and an MS in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Carol Menaker’s book is deeply personal and sharply journalistic—taking us to a moment in time that has haunted her and will haunt you…a page-turner that breaks your heart but also gives you hope that each of us may yet summon the courage Carol has to cultivate our own moral compasses and, most importantly, give a damn about equal justice.
Mag Dimond, author of Bowing to Elephants: Tales of a Travel Junkie
Haunting, heartbreaking, and unerringly candid, this story invites us all to look at ourselves, our presumptions, and the impact of the choices we make. This is a brave book, and Menaker is a brave author to take it on.
Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, MFT, author of Filling her Shoes and host of The Morning Glory podcast
A heartbreaking account of an all-too-familiar story of justice gone wrong. Gripping and superbly written, this is an important book, courageously illuminating the shadow side of our ethos of liberty and equality -- essential reading for anyone interested in justice and racial issues in these challenging times.
Sean Murphy National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Creative Writing, author of The Time of New Weather.