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A SAINT ON DEATH ROW by Thomas Cahill

A SAINT ON DEATH ROW

The Story of Dominique Green

By Thomas Cahill

Pub Date: March 10th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-52019-5
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday

Digressing from his previous focus on the formative years of Western civilization (The Mysteries of the Middle Ages, 2006, etc.), Cahill gives a personal account of a Texan executed in 2004 for a 1992 murder.

The author, who first visited Dominique Green on death row in 2003, makes no bones about his belief that the case represents a gross miscarriage of justice. He may not convince every reader, given that the murder was committed during an armed robbery Green admitted participating in, the weapon was found in his car and he tried to coerce one of his partners in crime into making up an alibi. Cahill is more effective at demonstrating the inherent flaws in the Texas judicial system as well as the inhumanity of life on death row. Raised by abusive, drug-addicted parents, Green was 18 when he was charged with the fatal shooting of a truck driver outside a Houston convenience store. His court-appointed lawyers were both inexperienced and negligent. Two of his co-defendants later received reduced sentences; the lone white suspect was never charged at all, in return for turning informant. Condemned to death, Green transformed himself into a model prisoner who eventually won the friendship and support of the victim’s family. He was also aided by Sheila Murphy, a former Chicago judge who took up his appeal, and by the Community of Sant’Egidio, an international charity based in Rome. Cahill, recruited to the cause by Murphy, elevated the case’s profile by arranging a prison visit from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who later called Green “a remarkable advertisement for God.” The author clearly demonstrates Green’s spiritual and intellectual growth while a death row inmate, but his subjective approach weakens this slim narrative’s dramatic punch.

Sad and revealing, but less powerful than other prison sagas like Thomas Gaddis’ classic Birdman of Alcatraz or, more recently, John Carlin’s Playing the Enemy.