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."
©2009 David R. Dow (P)2010 Hachette
"In an argument against capital punishment, Dow's capable memoir partially gathers its steam from the emotional toll on all parties involved, especially the overworked legal aid lawyers and their desperate clients. The author, the litigation director of the Texas Defender Service and a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, respects the notion of attorney-client privilege in this handful of real-life legal outcomes, some of them quite tragic, while acknowledging executions are 'not about the attorneys,' but 'about the victims of murder and sometimes their killers.' .... Dow's book is a sobering, gripping and candid look into the death penalty." (Publishers Weekly)
David Dow's memoir is not just about the death penalty; it is about a father, a husband, and a lawyer. If this were fiction, it would be a great story. But it's fact, making it all the more compelling. Of course, the book also teaches us an awfully lot about criminal justice in Texas, and what you learn is not pretty.
The narration by the author is excellent.
I couldn't let go of this audiobook after having listened to it in a single session: non fiction that reads like a suspense novel. But apart from its ``entertainment'' value, the author makes an extremely compelling case against the death penalty as it is implemented today. Without ever boring the reader, he explains how a dangerous combination of poorly prepared / payed attorneys combined with more and more arbitrary appeal rules restrictions end up with the execution of the guilty, but also the innocent, the mentally insane etc. The real cases he reports bring the reader to tears of sadness and frustration. This should be a must read esp for everyone who supports the death penalty without really knowing how the system works!
This is a fascinating and eye-opening inside look into the business of execution, as well as into the life and practice of a lawyer defending death row inmates. This is some intense lawyering, let me tell you! And the details about the ins and outs of this practice - the races for appeals, the maddening frustrations, the heart-breaking losses - "justice is blind" (mostly to its own injustice) - were excellently told. The quality of Dow's writing is superb - simultaneously engaging and matter-of-fact.
But the interview in the appendix at the end was, to me, the most highly illuminating - when Dow emphasizes how lawyers - not just contract lawyers or divorce lawyers but also death row lawyers - are bound by the code of confidentiality that binds all lawyers - to take the secrets of the client-attorney relationship to the grave - for example, they cannot even talk to their spouses about how their day went.(except in the most general way, I suppose).
Getting this interview at the end of this very intense book was quite the unexpected bonus! Dow - and other death row attorneys - are most likely carrying some very weighty secrets. And for him to translate them into this engrossing, educational, heart-rending story with the ring of truth without violating confidences was quite a feat! Well done!
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
It seems like Dow isn't anti-death penalty as much as he is anti-unfairness in death penalty sentencing. He argues that poor and mentally challenged people are dis-proportionately sentenced to death and that whether or not someone is executed has more to do with their lawyer's skills (a.k.a. money) and the political environment at the moment than whether or not they are actually guilty.
He is believable.
He has quite a few smaller tirades against "lazy" judges who he claims are just in it because of who they know and who don't actually care about truth or justice. Perhaps he's right. How would we know otherwise?
I liked how he covered several cases, and provided some background into his life and history, and I didn't even mind his "family life" scenes because they sorta grounded the story in reality a bit. I didn't like all the detailed "dreams" he related though - what role do dreams play in a biography? Overall it was very informational and quite thought-provoking, regardless of your position on the death penalty.
The narration was good.
This book unsettled me and forced me, in a healthy way, from my nice and happy bubble. The justice system scares me and I don't know where people who are are falsely-accused of a crime get the strength to carry on! I don't know how death-penalty lawyers and cops can ever see life as "normal" since the meter for normal must get set waaaay askew! The systems seems WAY off-balance and I don't see any hope for fixing it. If I got falsely-accused of a crime, I honestly don't know if I would even be able to face my trial!
I recommend this book to anyone interested in delving into the shades of gray that live between juvenile notions of good people and bad people, alll within the framework of the US justice system and the Texas death penalty system. All of these characters are flawed, and grace comes from the most surprising places. Set aside your beliefs on the death penalty and just go for a ride with the author as he weaves the rules of the legal system, their effects on real cases and real people, and the parallel journey of his personal life as a husband and father into a fabric that will wrap around you unexpectedly and leave you with lots to ponder. It's definitely worth the journey!
Henry Quaker's speech. Any more detail would be a spoiler.
Page turns are audible in the first section of the book. Dow's narration is reminiscent of Ben Stein. But somehow by the end, the words matter more than the performance art.
After the first hour, I would have given this book a single star, but by the end I'm offering 4 and 5 stars. Once I gave myself over to just going wherever the author wanted to take me, it became an incredible journey.
yes. A perspective not normally available on a difficult subject. I enjoyed the mix of work and family issues.
very pleasant voice that really humanized him as both father and lawyer
Less personal information. It just wasn't pertinent to the story.
It just wasn't that interesting.
The narrator was merely fine.
Painful. Was looking forward to this book but the title is the only redeeming quality. The authors voice makes boring writing even worse. I craved silence.
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