Death penalty opponents now have a definitive example to cite; death penalty proponents have an agonizing case to consider.

THE WRONG CARLOS

ANATOMY OF A WRONGFUL EXECUTION

A Columbia Law School professor and some of his students gather and present evidence establishing the innocence of Carlos DeLuna, executed for murder in Texas in 1989.

Legal scholar Liebman (co-author: Federal Habeas Corpus Practice and Procedure, 2001) begins (and ends) with Justice Antonin Scalia, who famously said in 2006 that there has not been a single case of wrongful execution. Perhaps this one will change his message? The author acquired the old transcripts, interviewed many of those involved, read the newspaper clippings and watched the TV news coverage—in general, he and his team behaved as the authorities in Corpus Christi should have but manifestly didn’t. In 1983, DeLuna was accused of stabbing Wanda Lopez, a gas station clerk, and was apprehended less than an hour later. Intellectually damaged, DeLuna denied the crime from the beginning to the very moment of his execution. Liebman and the others discovered that there was another Carlos—Carlos Hernandez—who was patently guilty. He and DeLuna looked a lot alike, but the violent Hernandez, a career criminal who later died in prison, carried (and often used) a knife and later told more than one person that he had actually committed the murder. Liebman’s team went over the physical evidence thoroughly (there was none connecting DeLuna to the case) and tacitly and explicitly accuse the Corpus Christi authorities of a rush to judgment. The author offers numerous photographs, charts and other documents (some are from police reports and trial evidence), as well as a website that presents much more of it. The chapter about DeLuna’s execution is wrenching. Liebman concludes with thoughts about how something like this could happen—and what we need to do to prevent it from happening again.

Death penalty opponents now have a definitive example to cite; death penalty proponents have an agonizing case to consider.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-231-16723-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

THUNDERSTRUCK

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will...

LUCKY

A stunningly crafted and unsparing account of the author’s rape as a college freshman and what it took to win her case in court.

In 1981, Sebold was brutally raped on her college campus, at Syracuse University.  Sebold, a New York Times Magazinecontributor, now in her 30s, reconstructs the rape and the year following in which her assailant was brought to trial and found guilty.  When, months after the rape, she confided in her fiction professor, Tobias Wolff, he advised:  “Try, if you can, to remember everything.”  Sebold heeded his words, and the result is a memoir that reads like detective fiction, replete with police jargon, economical characterization, and film-like scene construction.  Part of Sebold’s ironic luck, besides the fact that she wasn’t killed, was that she was a virgin prior to the rape, she was wearing bulky clothing, and her rapist beat her, leaving unmistakable evidence of violence.  Sebold casts a cool eye on these facts:  “The cosmetics of rape are central to proving any case.”  Sebold critiques the sexism and misconceptions surrounding rape with neither rhetoric nor apology; she lets her experience speak for itself.  Her family, her friends, her campus community are all shaken by the brutality she survived, yet Sebold finds herself feeling more affinity with police officers she meets, as it was “in [their] world where this hideous thing had happened to me.  A world of violent crime.”  Just when Sebold believes she might surface from this world, a close friend is raped and the haunting continues.  The last section, “Aftermath,” has an unavoidable tacked-on-at-the-end feel, as Sebold crams over a decade’s worth of coping and healing into a short chapter.

Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will inspire and challenge.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85782-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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