Back from the Dead: On the Trail of the Winners of America's Death Row Lottery

Back from the Dead: On the Trail of the Winners of America's Death Row Lottery

4.5 2
by Joan M. Cheever
     
 

As a young lawyer Joan Cheever served as co-counsel for Walter Williams, an inmate on Texas’ Death Row. For nine years she attempted to stave off his execution until, in October 1994, his chances finally ran out. At his request Joan stood beside him at his execution; it was an experience that changed the course of her life.

In the months following

Overview

As a young lawyer Joan Cheever served as co-counsel for Walter Williams, an inmate on Texas’ Death Row. For nine years she attempted to stave off his execution until, in October 1994, his chances finally ran out. At his request Joan stood beside him at his execution; it was an experience that changed the course of her life.

In the months following Walter’s execution Joan continued to ask herself how events might have been different: would Walter have committed the crime if he’d had better opportunities in life or a more supportive family? And how would he have lived if he had been granted a second chance at life?

The only people who could help to answer these gnawing questions were other convicted murderers. In 1972, the US Supreme Court abolished the death penalty: a ruling that stayed in place until 1976, granting hundreds of convicted killers a second chance at life. Joan embarked on an exhaustive and dangerous search to track down and interview these murderers, most of whom didn’t want to be found. Many had built entirely new lives and had become valued members of their communities; a very small number had killed again. Joan Cheever interviewed the murderers to find out if they had managed to rebuild their lives; she also spoke with the families of victims. The personal stories that she tells here contribute to a ground-breaking exploration of the issues at the very heart of the capital punishment debate. 

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
…an extraordinary achievement…bittersweet…powerful" (The Irish Independent Supplement, July 2006)

  “…amazing narrative…” (Lancashire Evening Post, August 2006)

  “…important messages shine through…” (BB Focus Magazine, August 2006)

"A fabulous book about the darker side of human nature." (South Wales Argus, October 2006)

"...this volume is essential reading...Highly recommended." ( LibraryJournal.com, 2006)

"A riveting, if emotionally unsettling, book... impassioned, heartfelt, and moving..." ( New York Law Journal, November 2006)

"...an extraordinary report..." (The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express, August 2006)

Library Journal
This volume, a godsend for opponents of capital punishment, indicates that there is an even chance that inmates spared the death penalty can be rehabilitated. After the Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia (1972) that the death penalty was unconstitutional, 589 murderers and rapists were released from death row and into the general prison population. (New laws upheld the death penalty in 1976.) About half of these men were eventually released; Cheever, a legal affairs journalist who trained as a lawyer, found and interviewed 125 of them. Their personal stories feature both redemption and dismal failure but do show that rehabilitation is possible even among the worst cases. Two other trains of thought run through Cheever's text. First, she was determined to meet Furman, the man behind the 1972 legal decision, and her search for him deep into Mississippi reads like an epic tale. Finally, going back to her unsuccessful legal defense of a man named Walter Williams, whose 1997 execution for murder started her on her odyssey, Cheever hunts down the mother of the victim. Written in a style that should appeal to the general reader, this volume is essential reading for anyone interested in the right or wrong of the death penalty. Highly recommended. Frances Sandiford (ret.), Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780470017500
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
07/11/2006
Edition description:
ANN
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.61(w) x 8.74(h) x 0.94(d)

Meet the Author

Joan M. Cheever is an award-winning legal affairs journalist and a former managing editor of The National Law Journal. Cheever received her Bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University; a Master’s in journalism from Columbia University and her law degree from St. Mary’s University. She is a member of the bar in the states of Texas, New York and Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Back from the Dead: On the Trail of the Winners of America's Death Row Lottery 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The stories of these former death row inmates are all interesting and deserve to be told. However, many times throughout the book I felt Ms. Cheever's personal opinions and feelings got in the way of her telling the stories. Every murder is described as 'brutal' and 'cold-blooded' and it seems as if every other chapter she has placed herself in fear of her life by simply associating with the subjects she wants to interview. I have worked in criminal defense for 6 years now and on occassion have handled death penalty work. With the exception of a very small handful of clients I've never feared for my safety when I'm alone with them. I have also found that each story has two sides, I'm not saying that I agree with the decision to murder someone but I can see why it happened. Several of the cases described in this book definitely beg for re-examination and when a person does that, I think most will find that the subjects crime were neither exceptionally 'brutal' nor 'cold-blooded' in this day and age.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tracking down 589 people is no small undertaking. Ms. Cheever not only does justice to the overwhelming task, but delves into the depths of the Class of '72, who received a second chance at life. While on her journey to find what became of 'lottery winners' of Furman v. Georgia, Ms. Cheever touched their souls while exposing her own. In the end she learned the meaning of forgiveness and became the 'healer' in a justice system wrought with injustice. The reader learns where and who these reprieved convicts are today with the added insight of Ms. Cheever's underpinings through the snipets of her coloful Texas family. Just as the reader comes up for air, having meet a former death row inmate and having heard the facts of his crime and punishment from his point of view, the author teases you with a preview of who comes next. Putting the book down at this junture is not an option. In the end the reader has much to ponder. Kudos to Ms. Cheever whose Notes are as good a read as the book.