THE DEATH OF INNOCENTS: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions

Helen Prejean, Author . Random $25.95 (310p) ISBN 978-0-679-44056-7

Activist nun Prejean, whose crusade against the death penalty became widely known after Susan Sarandon portrayed her in the Oscar-winning film adaptation of her first book, Dead Man Walking , has again crafted a passionate indictment of the American criminal justice system. This time, with gripping, heartrending detail, Prejean draws on her experience advocating for two men she believes to have been innocent, but who were condemned to death row—Dobie Gillis Williams and Joseph O'Dell. While the book's subtitle removes any element of suspense, few readers will miss it. Instead, many will be outraged at a "machinery of death" weighted against the poor and African-Americans, featuring technical obstacles placed in the way of men desperately fighting for a fair hearing of evidence never elicited at their trials (O'Dell was denied appellate review by the highest court in Virginia because his lawyers typed one wrong word on his petition's title page). Prejean's tale involves a tragic, but not atypical, confluence of aggressive prosecutors (such as those in Louisiana, who display a "Big Prick" award featuring the state bird clutching in its talons a hypodermic needle used in lethal injections in its talons) and inept, ill-trained and apathetic defense attorneys. This damning critique should make even supporters of capital punishment pause, and the author's celebrity status, coupled with a timely message, should propel this onto bestseller lists. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (On sale Dec. 28)

Reviewed on: 12/06/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 332 pages - 978-1-85311-682-7
Ebook - 978-1-58836-416-6
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-0-679-75948-5
Ebook - 190 pages - 978-0-307-27702-2
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