The Attica Turkey Shoot tells a story that New York State did not want you to know. In 1971, following a prison riot at the Attica Correctional Facility, state police and prison guards slaughtered thirty-nine hostages and inmates and tortured more than one thousand men after they had surrendered. State officials pretended that they could not successfully prosecute the law officers who perpetrated this carnage, and then those same officials scurried for shelter when a prosecutor named Malcolm Bell exposed the cover-up.
Bell traveled a rocky road to a justice of sorts as he sought to prosecute without fear or favor—in spite of a deck that the officials had stacked to keep the police from facing the same justice that had filled the Attica prison in the first place. His insider’s account illuminates the all-too-common contrast between the justice of the privileged and the justice of the rest.
The book also includes evidence from recently uncovered tapes that Governor Nelson Rockefeller knew his order for troopers to attack could cost the lives of hundreds of inmates and all those hostages. The Attica Turkey Shoot highlights the hypocrisy of a criminal justice system that decides who goes to prison and who enjoys impunity in a nation where no one is said to be above the law.
The Attica Turkey Shoot
Carnage, Cover-Up, and the Pursuit of Justice
Malcolm Bell, Heather Ann Thompson
21 March 2017
6.00 x 9.00in.
About the author
Malcolm Bell, a former corporate litigator, decided in mid-career to seek greater fulfillment by pursuing criminal law. While serving as a New York State prosecutor, he bravely blew the whistle on the state’s refusal to hold law officers accountable for the extensive torture and murder that they committed during the 1971 Attica prison riot.
Heather Ann Thompson is a native Detroiter and historian on faculty of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her recent book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy won the Pulitzer Prize for history.
“My book simply couldn’t have been written, nor could Attica’s many victims received any sort of justice, without the bravery that Malcolm Bell showed long ago when he blew the whistle on the state’s efforts to protect law enforcement ugliness during the retaking of that prison on Sept.13, 1971. . . . It is a real gift to us all that Malcolm’s . . . firsthand account of how [the Attica prosecution] unfolded, is being published once again.”
—Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
“In the small canon of whistleblower literature, the book is a classic, a kind of nonfiction police procedural whose protagonist is initially overwhelmed by doubts and confusion, only to be filled with outrage once he realizes that justice has been purposely thwarted.”
—Tom Robbins, The Marshall Project
“We are the jury as Mr. Bell presents clear evidence of a police riot in retaking Attica, of monstrous inhumanity in the aftermath, and of a subsequent cover-up emanating from the highest levels of government…. A courageous Mr. Bell reveals the shocking details of his long and arduous journey towards justice.”
—Martin Sheen, actor and political activist
“Malcolm Bell tells a story America desperately needs to know…. The Attica prison rebellion… the Presidential ambitions of one of the nation’s wealthiest men, public fear and hatred of imprisoned convicts, police murders followed by weeks of torture and brutality, form the caldron in which a lawyer’s character was to be tested…. Malcolm Bell has written a bristling narrative, faithful to fact, full of hot emotion and cool reason in which conscience born of love prevails. Read it. ”
—Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the United States
“Your book is the Bible of Attica. Whenever I want to look up something, it's the book I use. My copy is filled with highlighting and post it notes, and the pages are nearly falling out.”
—Dee Quinn Miller, Director, Forgotten Victims of Attica
“Malcolm Bell’s powerful story of the Attica prison uprising is as powerful now as when he first wrote it. [The Attica Turkey Shoot] has the ring of truth.”
—Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian
“…a brave book that I enjoyed thoroughly.”
—Ted Conover, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing
“Attica is a major American tragedy. Yet the lessons of the tragedy, to be found in the riot itself, in the blood bath incurred in the retaking of the prison, and in the subsequent prosecution that went terribly wrong—all these lessons remain largely unlearned. They are all in this book. Caring Americans should read what this eminently caring American, Malcolm Bell, has written.”
—Reverend William Sloane Coffin
“Without you we couldn’t have won. Without you the real story of what happened at Attica would never have gotten told.”
—Elizabeth M. Fink, chief counsel for the Attica inmates who won the largest settlement in the history of prison litigation
“Malcolm Bell was assigned to prosecute first the prisoner defendants—my clients—and then the attack force who zealously killed ten hostages and twenty-nine prisoners while re-taking the prison. This book tells of the attempted cover-up of the crimes of the attack force and how Bell thwarted it, at great personal risk. My onetime adversary Malcolm Bell is an inspiration for us all.”
—Donald A. Jelinek, defense counsel for Attica prisoners and author of Attica Justice
“Recalling the author listened absent intent to manipulate my observations and memories, the book is an honest representation of fact. It provides accurate insight to the event Attica, the continuing cover-up, and the political manipulation of our legal system.”
—Michael Smith, Attica hostage who survived five police bullets, FVOA spokesman
“The Turkey Shoot is a daring document. A debt of gratitude is owed to Malcolm Bell for the career sacrifice he made in order to present the truth. The intrigue associated with the cover-up is mind boggling.”
—Paula Krotz, wife of Attica hostage Paul Krotz
“I should have read it sooner because it gave me some comfort about what really happened and I knew that I didn’t need to be quietly suspicious any more. I wish my husband had lived long enough to know more about the cover-up that the State engaged in and just how far they went to shut the door and ignore what really went on.”
—June Fargo, wife of hostage Richard Fargo
“My greatest reaction to The Turkey Shoot…was shock—at the extent of the cover-up by the State after the botched retaking [of the prison]. It was very apparent from the facts that Malcolm could gather that the assault [by police] was very poorly planned, unsupervised and way out of control…. The midnight raids on funeral homes by State officials who tried to coerce funeral directors into denying bullet wounds was appalling…. I’m looking forward to the new printing of The Turkey Shoot—I have many friends and family members eager to get a copy so they may know the real truth of the aftermath.”
—Cindy Mellen, daughter of hostage Richard Fargo
“Malcolm Bell is a long distance runner for justice, whose book is still helping to blow the lid off the Attica cover-up…. His integrity and this resultant chronicle stand in stark contrast to the fraudulent history that New York State tried to write.”
—Jonathan E. Gradess, Executive Director, New York State Defenders Association
“This is an extremely important book about one of the darkest events in New York history and the attempts afterward to conceal the truth. It's stunning . . . and represents the effort that cost an honest prosecutor his career.”
—Michael Virtanen, author and Associated Press reporter
“Malcolm Bell gave up his career to become a whistle blower. Without him, the misdeeds of many would have stayed buried forever.”
—Chris Orr Christopher, producer, Criminal Injustice: Death and Politics at Attica
“The tacit alliance of law enforcement and politics, an omnipresent reality in the American justice system, has seldom been seen more clearly than in Malcolm Bell’s painstaking account…. But Bell tells us something else—that honesty does matter, that truth and justice are worth pursuing even if seldom attained, that one person willing to stand up can make a difference.”
—Tom Wicker, author and Times columnist, from the original foreword