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Near the beginning of The Autobiography of an Execution, David Dow lays his cards on the table. “People think that because I am against the death penalty and don’t think people should be executed, that I forgive those people for what they did. Well, it isn’t my place to forgive people, and if it were, I probably wouldn’t. I’m a judgmental and not very forgiving guy. Just ask my wife.”
It this spellbinding true crime narrative, Dow takes us inside of prisons, inside the complicated minds of judges, inside execution-administration chambers, into the lives of death row inmates (some shown to be innocent, others not) and even into his own home—where the toll of working on these gnarled and difficult cases is perhaps inevitably paid. He sheds insight onto unexpected phenomena—how even religious lawyer and justices can evince deep rooted support for putting criminals to death—and makes palpable the suspense that clings to every word and action when human lives hang in the balance.
How does it feel to defend a serial killer? To tell a young man that he will be executed in twenty minutes’ time? To explain to your five-year-old son that you’re late because you couldn’t help someone? To realise that a death row convict whose life you hold in your hands is actually innocent?
David Dow is a leading death row attorney in Texas, a state where 99% of execution appeals are rejected.He defends convicted murderers for the simple reason that he feels putting them to death is wrong. He knows his clients are vicious, violent monsters, but killing a murderer is homicide, and homicide, as David sees it, is morally insupportable.
Yet this routine of resignation—to the fate of both his clients and his young family, whom he can feel slipping away from him by the day—is interrupted by the worst thing that could happen to him: the realization that a client is innocent. Not…[more]