Executed on a Technicality: Lethal Injustice on America's Death Row

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Overview

When David Dow took his first capital case, he supported the death penalty. He changed his position as the men on death row became real people to him, and as he came to witness the profound injustices they endured: from coerced confessions to disconcertingly incompetent lawyers; from racist juries and backward judges to a highly arbitrary death penalty system.

It is these concrete accounts of the people Dow has known and represented that prove the death penalty is consistently ...

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Executed on a Technicality: Lethal Injustice on America's Death Row

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Overview

When David Dow took his first capital case, he supported the death penalty. He changed his position as the men on death row became real people to him, and as he came to witness the profound injustices they endured: from coerced confessions to disconcertingly incompetent lawyers; from racist juries and backward judges to a highly arbitrary death penalty system.

It is these concrete accounts of the people Dow has known and represented that prove the death penalty is consistently unjust, and it's precisely this fundamental-and lethal-injustice, Dow argues, that should compel us to abandon the system altogether.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
An honorably dispassionate and logical broadside against a shameful practice.
—Kirkus Reviews

"Dow reveals the dirty little secret of American death-penalty litigation: procedure trumps innocence . . . [His book] is insightful and full of the kinds of revelations that may lead readers to reconsider their stand on the death penalty."—Steve Mills, Chicago Tribune

"Dow's book leaves all else behind. It is powerful, direct, informative, and told in compelling human terms. He makes us see that the issue is not sentiment or retribution or even innocence. It is justice."—Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist for the New York Times

David R. Dow is professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center and an internationally recognized figure in the fight against the death penalty. He is the founder and director of the Texas Innocence Network and has represented more than thirty death row inmates. Regularly quoted in publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post, Dow lives in Houston, Texas.

Kirkus Reviews
The death penalty is wrong because it can't be meted out fairly, argues Dow (Law/Univ. of Houston). The standard argument against executions is that they are cruel, inhumane and somehow uncivilized: a rhetorical strategy that often runs aground on the hard retort that killers can't be punished enough and to feel sympathy for them is naive at best. Some death penalty abolitionists, like Sister Helen Prejean, will explain why certain death row inmates are actually innocent, but even though the author is director of the Texas Innocence Network, he thinks that's also the wrong angle to take. Dow systematically walks readers through the process by which states decide to execute criminals, a process that ultimately owes far more to a convict's race, class and caliber of attorney than to the crime's level of brutality, which is supposed to be the factor that determines whether a death penalty or life sentence is imposed. "The tiny handful that we execute is almost never the worst of the worst," writes Dow. "Instead, people are executed because eyewitnesses make mistakes, police lie, defense lawyers sleep, and judges do not care." He returns repeatedly to the subject of defense lawyers who slept through the trials of clients who later went to death row; in one unbelievable instance in Texas, six people who had been represented by one dozing lawyer were executed. It isn't just a bad defense that makes the system so unfair to the accused, the author asserts; it's also the simple fact that minorities are executed far more often than their white counterparts (regardless of the severity of the crime) and that higher courts are increasingly unwilling to hear appeals from those on death row. Though thecentral power of Dow's argument occasionally gets lost in a book that frequently reads like a dry legal brief, he succeeds in illuminating the horrific arbitrariness of a system that has abandoned blind justice for "the rule of the mob." An honorably dispassionate and logical broadside against a shameful practice.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807044193
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 5/15/2006
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,130,649
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

David R. Dow is professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center and an internationally recognized figure in the fight against the death penalty. He is the founder and director of the Texas Innocence Network and has represented more than thirty death row inmates.Regrularly quoted in publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post, Dow is the coeditor of Machinery of Death: The Reality of of America's Death Penalty Regime. He lives in Houston, Texas.
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Table of Contents

Prologue : a death penalty supporter becomes a death penalty lawyer
Introduction : beyond innocence
Ch. 1 The execution of Carl Johnson 1
Ch. 2 Cesar Fierro's coerced confession 25
Ch. 3 Johnny Joe Martinez's fatal five minutes 52
Ch. 4 Some are released, others are executed 95
Ch. 5 Innocence is not enough 116
Ch. 6 Interlude : why innocence matters 135
Ch. 7 How the rule of law became mob rule 146
Afterword : a personal note 179
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 27, 2012

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who is opposed to the death penalty.

    I had to read this book for my CAPP Political Science class and I must say that it really shocked me how interesting the book really was. David R. Dow does a magnificent job of highlighting key flaws in the criminal justice system. By using his own experiences to convey these flaws, he brings to light the cruel reality of the criminal justice system. The ways he presents his arguments are very clear and easy for anyone to understand. It is a book that opposes the popular belief that the death penalty is useful for people that have committed the crimes to deserve it. You will have to read it to find out more. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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