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BOOKS: Angel of Death Row

Renowned death penalty defense attorney Andrea Lyon's forthcoming book, Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer, chronicles her 30 years of experience representing clients in capital murder cases.  In all of the 19 cases where she represented defendants who were found guilty of capital murder, jurors spared her clients’ lives.   Lyon, who was featured in the PBS documentary Race to Execution and was called the "angel of death row" by the Chicago Tribune, gives readers an inside look at what motivates her during these difficult cases and offers behind-the-scene glimpses into many dramatic courtroom battles. Lyon is the founder of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases based in Illinois and a professor of law at DePaul University College of Law.  The book includes a foreword by Alan Dershowitz, who calls Lyon "a storyteller par excellence."


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BOOKS: The Last Lawyer--The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates

The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates is a book by John Temple about the courageous work of a death penalty defense attorney in the south.  Ken Rose is an attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in North Carolina.  He has handled many capital cases, but the focus of this book is his defense of Bo Jones, a mentally handicapped farmhand convicted of a murder that occurred in 1987 and sentenced to death. The case highlights issues such as inadequate defense, mental retardation, mental illness and witness testimony. Based on over four years of behind-the-scenes reporting, The Last Lawyer tells the story of how Rose's work eventually led to the dismissal of all charges against Jones in 2008.

 

 

 


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BOOKS: That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row

"That Bird Has My Wings" is a new book by Jarvis Jay Masters, an inmate on San Quentin’s death row in California. In this memoir, Masters tells his story from an early life with his heron-addicted mother to an abusive foster home. He describes his escape to the illusory freedom of the streets and through lonely nights spent in bus stations and juvenile homes, and finally to life inside the walls of San Quentin Prison. Using the nub and filler from a ballpoint pen (the only writing instrument allowed him in solitary confinement), Masters chronicles the story of a bright boy who turned to a life of crime, and of a penitent man who embraces Buddhism to find hope.  Masters has written this story as a cautionary tale for anyone who might be tempted to follow in his footsteps, and as a plea for understanding about the forgotten members of society. (From publisher's description).

 

 

 

 


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BOOKS: No Human Way to Kill

Acclaimed artist Robert Priseman has assembled some of his drawings of execution chambers with essays on the death penalty into a new book entitled "No Human Way to Kill."  The essays include the story of a mother whose daughter was murdered, a death row inmate's diary, and an interview with Jim Willett, former warden of the prison where Texas executions are held.  Death penalty attorney Clive Stafford Smith writes in review, "The etchings and accounts offer up a strange and original contemplation on a subject which stretches back far, far too long."


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BOOKS: A Life for a Life--The American Debate Over the Death Penalty

In the book, A Life for a Life: The American Debate Over the Death Penalty, author Michael Dow Burkhead, a psychologist who has worked with criminal offenders for 25 years, explores the various trends in public opinion that influence crime prevention efforts, create public policy, and reform criminal law. He examines eight core issues about the use of executions: cruel and unusual punishment, discrimination, deterrence, due process, culpability, scripture, innocence, and justice.  The book provides a brief history of capital punishment in the United States from the earliest known execution in1608 to the present time. Additional topics include the regionalization of capital punishment sentences, the spiritual and scriptural debate over the death penalty, the role of DNA evidence in modern death sentences, and the ongoing effects recent court rulings.  The appendix includes recent state commission reports on the death penalty from Maryland, California, New Jersey, and Tennessee.


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Books: "True Stories of False Confessions"

In True Stories of False Confessions, editors Rob Warden and Steven Drizin present articles about some of the key accounts of false confessions in the U.S. justice system written by more than forty authors, including Alex Kotlowitz and John Grisham.  The cases are grouped into categories such as brainwashing, inference, fabrication, and mental fragility. This refutes the perception that false confessions represent individual tragedies rather than a systemic flaw in the justice system. The editors make recommendations for policy changes that would reduce false confessions.

 

 


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BOOKS: "The Crying Tree"

The Crying Tree is a new novel by Naseem Rakha that raises the real-life question: Could you forgive the man who murdered your son?  Rakha is an award-winning broadcast journalist whose work has been heard on NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition." The story of her novel is told through the lives of a mother whose son was murdered and the superintendent of a state penitentiary where the defendant's execution is to take place.  Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, said in review, "For anyone who has ever wondered how forgiveness is possible, even when the pain is overwhelming, wonder no more.  The Crying Tree takes you on a journey you won't soon forget."


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BOOKS: Lethal Rejection--Stories on Crime and Punishment

A new book, Lethal Rejection: Stories on Crime and Punishment, edited and written in part by American University criminologist Robert Johnson and student Sonia Tabriz, features an array of fiction and poetry on crime and punishment written by prisoners, academics, and students of criminology.  The book includes a number of stories about capital punishment.  Jocelyn Pollock, Professor of Criminal Justice at Texas State University, writes in the preface, "[H]umans have always used fiction to instruct, enlighten and communicate.  Stories take us to places we haven’t been; they help us to understand people who are not like us. In this book, the authors use fiction to convey the reality of prison.”  She describes the book’s poetry, prose and plays as methods to “take the reader into the ‘reality’ of prison and the justice system--not through facts and figures, but through the tears and screams, blood and pain of the people chewed up by it.”  Todd Clear, a Professor of Criminal Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, writes, "The book makes us encounter the lives of the confined in a way I have not experienced in any other book about prison life.” The book may be purchased here.


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BOOKS--The Ride: A Shocking Murder and a Bereaved Father’s Journey from Rage to Redemption

The Ride: A Shocking Murder and a Bereaved Father’s Journey from Rage to Redemption is a new book by Brian MacQuarrie that explores a parent's grief and subsequent transformation through the story of Robert Curley in Massachusetts.  Curley's 10-year-old son, Jeffrey, was a victim of abduction and murder in 1997.  The murder shocked and outraged the community of East Cambridge outside of Boston.  MacQuarrie explores the father's evolution “from grief to anger to activism against predators,” and from being an outraged father demanding the death penalty for his son’s murderer to an outspoken critic of capital punishment.  Delving deeper into the issue, the author looks at the struggle of Massachusetts residents as they decide whether to reinstate capital punishment.  Senator John Kerry calls the book, a “compelling and deeply moving…story of Bob Curley’s journey to hell and back.”  Sister Helen Prejean said "Robert Curley's radical transformation is a lesson for us all."


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BOOKS: No Winners Here Tonight

A new book, No Winners Here Tonight: Race, Politics, and Geography in One of the Country’s Busiest Death Penalty States, by Ohio journalist Andrew Welsh-Huggins, explores the history of Ohio's death penalty and raises questions of fairness by examining the state's experience with capital punishment. Citing historical examples, the author argues that the death penalty has been carried out in an arbitrary fashion from its earliest days and has fallen short of the state’s standard of executing only the “worst of the worst." This book is the first comprehensive study of the history of the death penalty in Ohio.  (The state has about 188 people on death row and has carried out 28 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s.  In 2008, Ohio was the only state outside the south to carry out an execution.)

 


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