May God Have Mercy: A True Story of Crime and Punishment

John C. Tucker, Author W. W. Norton & Company $27.5 (358p) ISBN 978-0-393-04032-6
With executions on the rise nationwide, the story of Ronald Keith Coleman, as told by attorney-turned-author Tucker, might serve as a cautionary tale to an increasingly vindictive public. In 1982, Coleman was convicted of the rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Wanda Fay Thompson, and sentenced to die in Virginia's electric chair. Despite other leads and possible suspects, the investigation focused on Coleman from the beginning, in part due to his previous rape conviction. His defense was handled by two inexperienced lawyers, neither of whom had tried a murder case. Unresolved inconsistencies in the prosecution's case--how could Coleman have inflicted four-inch stab wounds with a three-inch knife?; why, if Coleman was freely admitted to the victim's home, were there pry marks on the door?--and other problems created a climate of doubt that climaxed with a Time cover story that ran two days before Coleman's execution. Tucker paces his story with an eye to raising suspense as Coleman speeds through the appeals process and last-minute pleas. State policeman Jack Davidson, Virginia Appeals Court Judge Williams and U.S. Justice O'Connor come in for some shots, and the 11th-hour almost-heroes who worked tirelessly on Tucker's behalf are nearly canonized. What distinguishes Tucker's work is his sensitive rendering of the quality of the effort on Coleman's behalf and of the dignity with which Coleman, clearly a changed man, faced his death on May 20, 1992. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Show other formats
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-385-33294-1
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-393-33473-9
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.