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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
  • Alexandra
  • Morrisville, PA, United States
  • 06-16-10

The shortcomings of justice

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!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great story. Tragic reality

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Interview at end is great

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

What a difficult subject...

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • LillyO
  • Idaho Falls, ID USA
  • 12-17-10

Deliciously Unsettling!

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!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Boulder Creek, CA, USA
  • 02-19-10

Excellent

Compelling, thoughtful, well-written

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Death Penalty. USA Can No Longer Afford.

I must admit that I only started to read this book because of my views regarding the Death Penalty. I was curious about the views and opinions of David R. Dow as he is the Cullen Professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the Rorschach Visiting Professor of History at Rice University. He also runs a death penalty clinic in which law students assist in the representation of inmates facing execution and is the founder and director of Texas’s oldest innocence project, the Texas Innocence Network, an organization that uses UH law students to investigate claims of actual innocence brought by Texas prisoners. In 2014, he started the Juvenile and Capital Advocacy Project, which is also located at the UH Law Center.

I figured that this guy knew a thing or two about the Death Penalty! I was not disappointed. I was surprised by his candor. This guy more often or not really disliked the people that he was representing.

David Dow makes it quite clear that his job and the job of his team was to save people from execution. NOT to prove their innocence JUST to keep them alive. He did not have to like them.

This man has four loves. He loves deeply . He loves hard. I have no idea in what order these loves are stacked. Depends on the day I suppose.

The law, his wife, his son, his dog.

I enjoyed this book very much. In fact I read it twice prior to writing this review. It will make you think. Maybe you will get as frustrated with the system as I did? The arbitrary red tape that is left to the very last moment and the 'flip' attitude of lazy Government employees who are not prepared to do their job in order to perform their 'due diligence' even thought a human being may well be losing their life in less than an hour.

An excellent read.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Aimee
  • AUSTIN, TX, United States
  • 03-11-13

50 Shades of Humanity

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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!

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Autobiography of an Execution?

Henry Quaker's speech. Any more detail would be a spoiler.

What aspect of David R. Dow’s performance would you have changed?

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.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

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.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • donald
  • United States
  • 02-04-13

Get the inside story

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

yes. A perspective not normally available on a difficult subject. I enjoyed the mix of work and family issues.

What does David R. Dow bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

very pleasant voice that really humanized him as both father and lawyer

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Theresa
  • Toledo, OH, United States
  • 12-20-11

Why was this book published?

What would have made The Autobiography of an Execution better?

Less personal information. It just wasn't pertinent to the story.

What was most disappointing about David R. Dow???s story?

It just wasn't that interesting.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator was merely fine.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful