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The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht: Memoirs of America’s Most Controversial Forensic Pathologist
By Dr. Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D. and Jeff Sewald
Exposit Books (2020)
This memoir is written in the first person of Cyril Wecht, describing his life in detail, from early childhood to his experiences in forensic pathology, politics, popular media and more. Co-author Jeff Sewald’s experience as a documentarian shines through the addition of interviews from the people who have known Cyril best. Reading like a well-written documentary script, the text is often accentuated with reflections from Cyrils friends, family, colleagues and contemporaries, all describing their own relationships with Cyril. One common thread unites many of the interviews– talk of Cyril’s natural expertise, his impeccable instincts and the qualities that make him the best at what he does.
Dr. Wecht also details his involvement in high-profile cases, discussing his observations of cases that contribute to his fascinating conclusions. In the midst of a worldwide resurgence in true crime interest, Cyril’s notes pull back the curtain on some of the most popular and notorious cases, giving readers technical forensic insights that are not often discussed.
While much of the book is an autobiography and professional chronology, the book is also a rumination on Dr. Wecht’s philosophies on justice. Dr. Wecht writes extensively on instances of miscarried justice and police brutality, discussing the well-known cases of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray and others. But for Cyril, this memoir serves as his chance to extend his lifelong pursuit of justice towards himself. Dr. Wecht details his own experiences with the law and powers that be, as he gives his own perspective of the criminal and civil cases brought against him during his time as Allegheny County Coroner, and seeks to clear the air about his battles with politicians, media organizations, and others. As Dr. Wecht writes, “If I had been a bit more diplomatic and patient, and a little less antagonistic and controversial, I might have achieved more.” To which Joshua Axelrod of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette responds “But then, he wouldn’t be Cyril Wecht.”