"When confused by contradictory technical testimony, all that conscientious but bewildered jurors seem to be able to do is to give the Academy Award to the song and dance man they think gave the best performance."

It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. That is frequently the case when it comes to recounting real crimes that have been committed, judgments that have been handed down, and sentences that have been carried out. For quite some time writers have sought literary gold by mining this nonfiction vein of abhorrent behavior and its consequences. A few have actually found it in such excellent tomes as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, and Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field. The search for justice never seems to lose its particular allure. An allure that is alive and well in Jim Rix’s Jingle Jangle.

Jingle Jangle is a recounting of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Kim Ancona, plus the trial, conviction, appeal, retrial, upheld conviction, additional appeal, and subsequent overturned sentence and release of Ray Krone. The tale is told by Krone’s cousin, Jim Rix, a computer programmer and software developer turned chronicler of this fascinating foray into forensic sleuthing, questionable policing, dubious prosecution, alarming conviction, and incarceration of an innocent man.

The heinous deed that forms the axis of Rix’s tale takes place in Phoenix, Arizona,1991. A pretty barmaid is found virtually nude; beaten, bitten, and stabbed to death in the men’s room of her place of work. While the crime scene is littered with numerous examples of potential evidence, it is the actual bite marks on the victim’s body that become the central interest of the state. Prosecutors become convinced, based on forensic odontology, that the bite marks could only have come from a particular dart-throwing bar patron who was seen nuzzling with the deceased at a Christmas party prior to the killing. Ray Krone, the hapless young man whose teeth impressions seem to be a perfect match for the victim’s wounds, is arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to die for the shocking crime.

From this point on, Rix’s tale becomes a copiously detailed history of the strategy, tactics, movements, and machinations he and his relatives, attorneys, private investigators, and friends employ to fight what they feel is the unjust system that has incarcerated the wrong man. The crux of their efforts center around the disputed science of forensic odontology itself, plus the state’s expert witnesses and the methods they used to arrive at their conclusions. Also coming under fire are sloppy and inadequate police work, possible prosecutorial misconduct, errors by the judge, and arguably incompetent jurors.

Author Rix, being Krone’s cousin, makes no attempt to sell himself to his readers as an objective bystander. He thoroughly believes in his relative’s innocence from the beginning and notes in minute detail the efforts undertaken to right this judicial wrong. Neither does he hide his disdain for what he sees as Arizona’s, and particularly Maricopa County’s, predilection to convict first and ask questions later. He also pulls no punches when it comes to his feelings that religiously fervent Mormon jurists are no great aid to scientific exploration, the examination of truly tangible evidence, and the full meaning of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Within the pages, there is a taut and compelling story of crime, punishment, and justice gone seemingly haywire in a rush to judgment followed by continuing attempts to ignore the very revelations that would make wrongs right. In order to appreciate that, readers need to labor through only tangentially germane riffs on Mark Twain’s opinions, Sherlock Holmes’s observations, and a good deal more than a smattering of Bob Dylan’s lyrics. While Jingle Jangle is in fact a tasty nonfiction dish, it could use less fat and more lean.

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