Nick Yarris, who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for murder, sues publisher over abandoned life story.
By Josh Halliday
From death row to the high court. Book publishing giant HarperCollins is embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with a former prisoner who spent 21 years in solitary confinement in the US for a rape and murder he did not commit.
Nick Yarris, who was released from death row in Pennsylvania in 2004, is suing HarperCollins, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, at the high court in London for breach of contract over his life story, Seven Days to Live, published in 2008.
Yarris was sentenced to death in 1983 after being convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in Delaware. He spent the next two decades in one of America’s toughest prisons but was dramatically acquitted in January 2004 thanks to DNA evidence.
His harrowing account of the ordeal appeared in the book, Seven Days to Live, which was set to go on general sale in July 2008.
However, days before the release date, Yarris was arrested and charged with growing marijuana.
That prompted HarperCollins to swiftly halt the book’s publication – but not before a number of copies had been passed to retailers, including Amazon.co.uk and high street bookstores.
It is estimated that more than a thousand copies of the book were purchased by readers around the world. Used copies are for sale online for between £35.99 and £81.55.
The marijuana-growing charges against Yarris were later dismissed.