The Sing Sing Files

One Journalist, Six Innocent Men, and a Twenty-Year Fight for Justice

By Dan Slepian
Image of The Sing Sing Files by Dan Slepian hardcover book
Author: Dan Slepian
ISBN: 9781250897701
ON SALE: 09/03/2024

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An NBC Dateline producer's cinematic account of two decades navigating a broken criminal justice system to help free six innocent men.

In 2002, Dan Slepian, a veteran producer for NBC’s Dateline, received a tip from a Bronx homicide detective that would change his life. Two men were serving twenty-five years to life in prison for a murder in 1990, the cop said, and he knew for a fact that they did not commit that crime.

Haunted by what he had heard, Slepian began an investigation that eventually led to freedom for those two men, and launched him on a two-decade personal and professional journey through a system fiercely resistant to rectifying―or even acknowledging―its mistakes and their consequences.

The Sing Sing Files: One Journalist, Six Innocent Men, and a Twenty-Year Fight for Justice is an investigative journalist’s account of how he took on that system and of the years of prison visits, court hearings and powerful Dateline reporting it took to bring justice to those two men and four others imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. It is also the story of the deep and lasting friendships Slepian formed with the men whose cases he pursued, and how one of them―Jon-Adrian “JJ” Velazquez―provided aid and counsel to him from his cell in Sing Sing prison until his own release in 2021 after decades behind bars.

Like Bryan Stevenson’s Just MercyThe Sing Sing Files is a deeply personal account of wrongful imprisonment and the enormous effort required to redress it, and a powerful argument for reckoning and accountability. This extraordinary book, at once painful and full of hope, shines a light on a kind of injustice whose consequences we have only begun to confront.

Headshot of Dan Slepian, author of The Sing Sing Files
Dan Slepian is an award-winning journalist at NBC News and a veteran producer of its signature news magazine, Dateline. Over more than two decades at NBC, Slepian has spearheaded dozens of documentaries and hidden camera investigations, and is known for his in-depth reporting about the criminal legal system and, specifically, wrongful convictions. His documentaries on the topic have earned him a total of twelve Emmy nominations and in February 2023, NBC News released “Letters From Sing Sing,” an eight-episode award-winning podcast hosted by Slepian that hit #1 on Apple’s top charts the day of its release.

Praise for Dan Slepian

"I’ve said many times that every wrongful conviction deserves its own book. I’ve read a hundred of them and, as fascinating as they are, I thought I had reached the point of being shock-proof. But The Sing Sing Files stopped me cold. It’s an unforgettable account of one man’s uphill journey to free the innocent and expose many of the serious problems in our criminal justice system. It should be read by every rookie cop, brand new prosecutor, and first year law student. And it should be read by you. Hold on!"

John Grisham
#1 New York Times bestselling author, lawyer, and former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives

“Slepian’s a master storyteller with a passion for his subject. This is a page turner with stories that will open your mind and heart, and might even change your life the way they changed his.”

John F. Holloway
Executive Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at Penn Law

The Sing Sing Files is a masterful and inspiring account of a beautiful and uplifting story. While recounting his heroic efforts to free six wrongfully convicted men, Dan Slepian uncovers the tremendous obstacles to truth and justice that plague our criminal legal system. He shows that the problems are both systemic and personal, as institutions and actors protect their own reputations rather than fix the egregious mistakes and wrongdoing that have ruined the lives of countless people and their families. The Sing Sing Files should inspire readers to create a new generation of leaders who will genuinely pursue justice.”

Mark Howard
Director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative at Georgetown University

“A remarkable, moving account about the lives of people who have been too easily discarded, forgotten, and condemned. These compelling narratives help us understand why we should do better when it comes to punishment and justice in America.”

Bryan Stevenson
New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy

"This passionate, gripping, and moving chronicle of a skeptical journalist’s twenty year journey investigating injustice leads him, remarkably, to six innocent men, close friends, and a nuanced understanding of the humanity, resilience, and limitless potential of those we imprison, guilty or innocent. Dan Slepian’s engrossing insider’s narrative lays bare the infuriating incapacity and willful blindness of New York prosecutors, police, defense lawyers, and judges to recognize and correct wrongful convictions. The Sing Sing Files is a vitally important book that inspires hope that we can and will do better."

Barry Scheck
Co-Founder and Special Counsel, the Innocence Project

"Dan Slepian has written a book that is as informative as it is enraging. In these gripping case studies of innocent men wrongfully convicted, you learn how and why the truth often does not prevail in the American justice system. You also get a glimpse of the strength of the human spirit and of heroic efforts to right these wrongs. The stories are inspiring and so is the author. He has spent a career 'given the buried voice sound,' as one incarcerated man put it. This volume is on full blast with this tour-de-force. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about criminal justice, mass incarceration, or humanity."

Rachel Barkow
Author of Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration and Professor at NYU, School of Law

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