An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington, Jr.

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Overview

How is it possible for an innocent man to come within nine days of execution? An Expendable Man answers that question through detailed analysis of the case of Earl Washington Jr., a mentally retarded, black farm hand who spent almost 18 years in Virginia prisons -- 9 1/2 of them on death row -- for a murder he did not commit. The book reveals the relative ease with which individuals who live at society's margins can be wrongfully convicted and the extraordinary difficulty of correcting such a wrong once it occurs. Washington was freed in February 2001, not because of the legal and judicial systems, but in spite of them. While DNA testing was central to his eventual pardon, such tests would never have occurred without an unusually talented and committed legal team and a series of incidents that are best described as pure luck. An Expendable Man makes the chilling argument that some other "expendable men" almost certainly have been less fortunate than Washington. That is "the secret, shameful underbelly" of America's retention of capital punishment, the author writes. Such wrongful executions perhaps do not happen often, and perhaps less often in 2003 than 1983, the year Washington was arrested for the rape and murder of Rebecca Williams, a 19-year-old mother of three girls. But anyone who doubts that innocent men have been executed in America should remember the remarkable series of events necessary to save Earl Washington from such a fate.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In 1983, Earl Washington, an impoverished, mentally retarded black farmhand, was convicted of the rape and murder of a white woman in Culpepper, VA. Washington spent 18 years in prison-nine of them on death row-with the sanction of the U.S. Supreme Court. Through the efforts of a fellow death row inmate, who gained the attention of a New York law firm, Washington was pardoned on DNA evidence. This book, written by a Virginia Pilot reporter who interviewed Washington, recounts the process by which the pardon came about. By no means unbiased journalism, the book contends that individulals like Washington are considered expendable by the American justice system. One of the unique features of the book is its detailed explanation of the death penalty procedure in Virginia, which is second only to Texas in its number of executions. Since Washington's case is not well known, the book may not attract the general reader, but it is well worth a place in larger crime collections.-Frances Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“Best work of non-fiction about Virginia or by a Virginia author.”
-Manasas Journal Messenger

,

“Edds’s powerful telling of Washington's experience uses court documents, personal interviews, and a variety of other sources to illustrate the political and social circumstances surrounding this extraordinary case. This book invites the reader to think about how due process is carried out and implemented. An Expendable Man is a valuable study of not only the Virginia legal system, but also that of the United States.”
-Virginia Libraries

,

“Explores the dark side of the system of capital punishment. The book not only goes into great detail in recording Earl Washington, Jr.’s near-execution but also incorporates some history of the Virginia legal system.”
-Criminal Justice Review

,

“The book is provocative for its vivid characterization and its study of the death penalty’s inherent flaws.”
- Newport News Press

,

“Somewhere between the personal narratives found in H. Bruce Franklin’s collection Prison Writing in 20th-Century America, the critical work of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the recent profusion of sociological studies of America's accelerated prison economy, An Expendable Man gives us a moving portrait of a broad-based struggle on behalf of one man, and implies ways in which the halls of justice might become more just.”
-Trial & Error

,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814722398
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 243
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

As a reporter and now editorial writer for the Virginian-Pilot, the state's largest paper, Margaret Edds interviewed Earl Washington Jr. extensively and worked closely with his attorneys and all the principles of the case. She is the author of two critically acclaimed books on southern and African American issues, Free at Last and Claiming the Dream: The Victorious Campaign of Douglas Wilder of Virginia.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Timeline xi
1 Countdown 1
2 Death in Culpeper 10
3 A Piedmont Son 16
4 Arrest 27
5 Confessions 35
6 The Trial 45
7 Prisoner 69
8 Deadline 83
9 A Discovery 96
10 Appeals 113
11 Strategies 130
12 An Ending 152
13 Revival 166
14 Freedom Delayed 184
15 The Aftermath 196
Notes 213
Recommended Reading 231
Index 235
About the Author 243
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