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The 2021 Tournament of Books, presented by Field Notes, has concluded. Catch up on all the action!

Current Reads

Death Be Not Proud

A renowned lawyer in the fight against the death penalty writes about the heart of the matter.

Book Cover According to pollsters, two thirds of the U.S. population support the death penalty—disregarding racial discrepancies or anomalies in its administration. Interestingly, Texas, where attorney David Dow resides and defends death row clients, has executed 449 out of 1,194 since 1976. David Dow has represented over a hundred condemned criminals, which adds to the credence and poignancy of his book The Autobiography of an Execution (Twelve).

Journalist Dave Cullen (Columbine) insightfully sums up, “Defending the innocent is easy. David Dow fights for the questionable. He is tormented, but relentless, and takes us inside his struggle with candor and insight, shudders and all.” And Dow expresses the internal conflict:
I know death-penalty lawyers who are at the movies when their clients get executed. I know one who found out on Thursday that his client had been executed on Monday. He’d been scuba diving in Aruba. I understand that. It’s possible to care without seeming to. It’s also possible to care too much. You can think of yourself as the last person between your client and the lethal injection, or you can see your client as the person who put himself on the rail to that inevitability. One is healthier than the other.
What Dow effectively does in this riveting account of one particular execution (in the book’s afterword, he says of the 100 or so cases he defended he came to believe seven of his clients were innocent, including the book’s case-in-focus) is create an articulate and heartfelt chronicle of an execution and the complete surrounding—the legal back and forth, his family life with wife Katya and six-year-old son Lincoln, his personal feelings about the death penalty, and his variegated experiences with the justice system. Dow’s testimony (as evidenced in the accompanying video) is powerful and authentic, all the more so because of the (life and) death stakes.
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