Award-Winning Book

After its debut at #1 on Amazon, Smoke but No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes that Never Happened was selected as the Montaigne Medal award winner for 2021 as the year's "most thought-provoking book."

Smoke but No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes that Never Happened

Smoke but No Fire is a Winner!

  • Montaigne Medal award for “most thought-provoking” book
  • Foreword INDIES 2020 Book of the Year Award (Silver, Political & Social Sciences)
  • First Horizon Award for “superior writing” by a “debut author”
  • Eric Hoffer Grand-Prize short-list

From University of California Press. Released August 4, 2020. Paperback now available!

Rodricus Crawford was convicted and sentenced to die for the murder by suffocation of his beautiful baby boy. After years on death row, evidence confirmed what Crawford had claimed all along: he was innocent, and his son had died from an undiagnosed illness. Crawford is not alone. A full one-third of all known exonerations stem from no-crime wrongful convictions.

The first book to explore this common but previously undocumented type of wrongful conviction, Smoke but No Fire tells the heartbreaking stories of innocent people convicted of crimes that simply never happened.

A suicide is mislabeled a homicide. An accidental fire is mislabeled an arson. Corrupt police plant drugs on an innocent suspect. A false allegation of assault is invented to resolve a custody dispute.

With this book, former New York City public defender Jessica S. Henry sheds essential light on a deeply flawed criminal justice system that allows—even encourages—these convictions to regularly occur.

Smoke but No Fire promises to be eye-opening reading for legal professionals, students, and activists alike as it grapples with the chilling reality that far too many innocent people spend real years behind bars for fictional crimes.

Author Bio

Jessica S. Henry was a public defender for nearly ten years in New York City before joining the Department of Justice Studies at Montclair State University, where she is an Associate Professor and a frequent commentator on national television, radio, and in print media.

A Socially Distanced Book Signing

Upcoming Event

TEDx Butler
Remembering the Past to Reimagine the Future

October 18, 2021
12:00pm - 6:00pm EDT
(UTC -4hrs)
Architekt Music
1 Boonton Avenue
Butler, New Jersey

Past Events

Texas RioGrande Legal Aide Webinar on criminal justice reform featuring Jessica Henry

October 14, 2020
6:30 PM

An evening with the author at Watchung Booksellers!

September 20, 2020
6:00 pm


September 16, 2020
9:00 am

Join me for a virtual conversation at LMHQ with the Innocence Project about my new book

August 5, 2020
12:00 pm

Newkirk Center for Science & Society Featured Speaker

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Author Talk at the Kaplan Minyan at Montlcair's B’Nai Keshet Temple

Saturday, November 15, 2020
11:15AM (EST)

first speaker at the Social Justice Lecture Series at Montclair State University

Wednesday, November 11
6-7PM (EST)

Bucknell 360º Webinar Featuring Jessica Henry

October 14, 2020
Noon EST

Indigent Defense Research Association Webinar with Jessica Henry

September 11, 2020
1:00 pm ET
Noon CT

Virtual Evening with the author at the Book Revue Live on Crowdcast

September 10, 2020
7:00 pm

Virtual webinar with death penalty focus: Innocents on Death Row - How They Got There

August 25, 2020
1:30 pm EST
10:30 am PST

How can we make Black lives matter when it comes to policing? Live Forum on Facebook

August 20, 2020
1:00-2:00 pm

Podcast Interviews

"Jessica Henry’s Smoke but No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes That Never Happened drops an absolute bombshell on what we think we know about wrongful convictions by showing us how many of these cases never even happened in the first place. It’s unthinkable, and that’s just the sort of approach I look for in this area: something that really challenges our assumptions, that shakes us out of complacency and calls us to action.“ - M. Roessner


Eric Hoffer AwardMontaigne Medal award winner for 2021 "most thought-provoking book"
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"We have a system designed to exonerate the guilty rather than convict the innocent, but this startling expose of the criminal justice system uncovers a culture so broken and dysfunctional that innocent people are often forced to spend years in prison futilely trying to prove that not only are they innocent but that a fair and objective analysis of the facts would reveal that no crime actually occurred."
Christopher SherrinWrongful Convictions Law Review (2020)
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"Smoke but No Fire is an engaging read that offers a damning indictment of the American criminal justice system and its pervasive indifference to the possibility of innocence, perhaps especially in minor crime cases."
Kelly Blount Crime, Law and Social Change (2020)
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"Jessica Henry provides a concise and even-handed account of no-crime convictions and the numerous, interdependent ways in which they are allowed to continue. Her ability to weave personal stories with the matter of (legal) fact writing beautifully illustrates a perfectly ugly scenario. The book is comprehensive in scope, demonstrating a clearly well-researched premise for a problem that spans jurisdictions nation-wide while simultaneously demonstrating the unfortunate banality of its occurrence. The book is an informative and interesting read that also provides a great starting point for anyone who may want to further investigate this miscarriage of criminal justice."
Kirkus Reviews
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"An eye-opening book that suggests how commonplace are miscarriages of justice in the U.S.... the author’s accumulation of evidence is revelatory."
Simon A. Cole Director, National Registry of Exonerations, University of California, Irvine
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"In this thoroughly researched and clearly written book, Jessica Henry meticulously explains the seemingly inexplicable: how innocent people can be convicted of crimes that did not occur. Smoke but No Fire will stand as the definitive account of this enigmatic type of miscarriage of justice."
Brandon L. GarrettAuthor of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong
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"Henry's riveting book introduces readers to the world of no-crime exonerations. It is truly shocking to learn how crimes can be entirely fabricated through both misconduct and negligence.”
Gilbert KingAuthor of Devil in the Grove and Beneath a Ruthless Sun
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"Chilling and indispensable, Smoke, But No Fire should be required reading for everyone who cares about the integrity of our criminal justice system. With precision and great clarity, Jessica S. Henry documents the chaos and devastation that wrongful convictions inflict on society, while offering meaningful and workable solutions."
Jonathan RappingFounder of Gideon's Promise, Inc. and author of Gideon's Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice
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"Smoke but No Fire shines a bright light on a criminal justice system that lacks fidelity to the protections at the heart of our democracy. And the consequences are dire, as Jessica Henry vividly illustrates through gripping stories of innocent people who spent years in prison for crimes that never happened at all. This book urges criminal justice actors to recommit to a vision that sees wrongful convictions as an intolerable evil and it is an important wake-up call to professionals complicit in the status quo."
The Charles Smith Blog
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"This important book fills a gaping vacuum in criminal justice literature by, as she put it, "being the first to identify and explore no-crime wrongful convictions, how they happen, and what can be done to reduce their occurrence."

Readers consistently give Smoke but No Fire 5-stars. Read what they have to say here.

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