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by David R. Dow

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-446-56206-5
Publisher: Twelve

Appellate lawyer Dow (Law/Univ. of Houston Law Center; America's Prophets: How Judicial Activism Makes America Great, 2009, etc.) delivers an unsparing indictment of capital punishment in America and the legal system that enables it.

Most of the more than 100 death-row clients the author has represented since 1989 were indeed guilty of unspeakable crimes. Yet, he writes, “if you believe it's wrong to kill, you believe it's wrong to kill.” So Dow continually tried to prevent—or, more likely, delay, if only for a few days or hours—his clients' executions by a legal system in which “you hardly ever win.” In this racist, classist system, writes the author, prosecutors hide evidence and police lie, lawyers fall asleep during their clients' trials, appellate lawyers forget to file appeals on time, judges condemn with indifference and moral cowardice and nobody in the system—from the jury to the Supreme Court—is required to see the results of their actions: the taking of a human life. At the center of Dow's story is the case of Henry Quaker, who was found guilty of the brutal murders of his wife and children. As more evidence was uncovered, however—including the confession of another death-row inmate that he was responsible for the murders—Dow became convinced that Quaker was one of his few innocent clients. In this deft page-turner, Dow brings the reader into the legal world, as he and his colleagues tried nearly every legal gambit to have Quaker spared, in the days, hours and minutes before his time of execution. The author is equally skilled at evoking the personal toll created by the trial—the sleepless nights, the endless work, the neglect of a lovingly portrayed wife and son, who nevertheless sustained and inspired him.

A book of uncompromising honesty and moral beauty.