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Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer
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Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  378 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Nineteen times, death penalty defense lawyer Andrea D. Lyon has represented a client found guilty of capital murder. Nineteen times, she has argued for that individual’s life to be spared. Nineteen times, she has succeeded. Dubbed the “Angel of Death Row” by the Chicago Tribune, Lyon was the first woman to serve as lead attorney in a death penalty case. Throughout her care...more
Hardcover, 265 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Kaplan Publishing (first published 2010)
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Larry Bassett
This is a small universe of books that focus on the death penalty. Here are a few that I have found if you are interested in doing more reading on the topic:

Angel of Death Row is moving and well written. It will hold your attention from page one. This book is an example of one way to win hearts and minds. Lyon started as a young woman on fire to change the world and she has kept that fire burning one death penalty case at a time.
When I am asked the class
Sep 24, 2010 Susan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Susan by: Tara -- thanks!
Ms. Lyon was a public defender, is a defense attorney, a thankless job representing the people we love to hate. Her specialty -- getting people off death row.

In theory, I have been against the death penalty. It seems barbaric to kill someone in response to killing someone. I'm just not that eye-for-an-eye. But my theory is often tested when I hear of some truly heinous crime, something that makes someone seem so cruel that they do not seem human. Someone who should never walk the streets again....more
As a general policy, I want to read anything written by a Public Defender, because I am a Public Defender. This was no exception. Much like Defending the Damned, part of this book was focused on Lyon's work in the Homicide Task Force in the Cook County Public Defender's Office.

Themes of the book include rising through the ranks as a female attorney, balancing life and work, and viewing each client as an individual (no matter their race, life history, attitude towards Lyon).

I was inspired by Ly...more
Knowing that you often can tell a book by its cover, I was prepared for Angel of Death Row to be a bleeding heart liberal condemnation of the American criminal justice system in general and the death penalty in particular. After all, on the cover is the subtitle "My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer," and at the top, above the title and in letters larger than the subtitle is the name of Alan M. Dershowitz, who wrote the forward.

Although Lyon's book is to some extent those things, it's also...more
Jul 13, 2010 Joan added it
Full disclosure: I know Andrea, I've worked with Andrea, I've represented some of the same people, I know and have worked with people she writes about in this book. But I'm going to review this book all the same.

Andrea joined the Cook County (IL) Public Defender's Office at a time when there were very few women trial lawyers, much less criminal defense lawyers. She took a lot of guff from prosecutors, judges and colleagues, but she never let it stop her. By the time she left that office, she was...more
Tara Chevrestt
I have always been for the death penalty, but after reading this book, I no longer see it as such a quick solution to America's crime rate. My eyes have been opened to a surprising world of corruption hiding behind the law. Innocent people get wrongly accused and underdogs (minorities and people of low financial means) often fail to get their side of the story heard. Wealth and social status play too large a role in determining who lives behind bars and who merely pays a fine.

Ms. Lyon begins her...more
Andrea Lyon tells the story of her life's work, first as a public defender in Cook County, IL (Chicago) and then as a private public-interest attorney litigating post-conviction claims (appeals, habeus and clemency petitions, etc.) on behalf of people sentenced to death.

As a public defender myself I can say that this is a great book that everyone should read. Although a cynic might try to dismiss this book as just another lawyer thinking her cases and life are something special, that would simp...more
Erin Carey
Although I am no longer a public defender, I am still fascinated by the practice and enjoy discussing experiences with colleagues. So when a friend of mine recommended this book to me I was instantly looking forward to reading it. I had read "Defending the Damned" a few years back - a book based on attorneys in the same office as Ms. Lyon - and was excited about Lyon's personal take on the life she lived as a public defender on the Homicide Task Force.

Having been in similar situations myself as...more
Khris Sellin
I'm all about the Innocence Project and saving the West Memphis Three, so this book called out to me (and it was free). Andrea Lyon is, as the title says, a death penalty defense lawyer, based mostly out of Chicago. This book reads like a compilation of short stories, each one describing her most memorable cases. She also sprinkles in bits of her life story along the way.
While she does at times seem a little self-congratulatory, these stories need to be told. She represents a group who in the pa...more
Andrea Lyon is one of the most fascinating and honest women I know. When I say "know," it is with great honor that I get to be her facebook friend. Some authors really strike a resonating cord and I seek them out to actively stalk them. This is one of them.

The book contains 12 chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter reads like a very well written essay that can stand alone but, as is Andrea's way, when taken as a whole with the other stories, the journey is much more satisfying.

The author begins...more
I was thoroughly impressed with this book and not only because I personally know the author. I think I may have found myself in even more awe of her than I already way. Andrea Lyon is a wonderful writer and the book flies by because each case is so interesting. She has devoted her life to justice of the people and fighting the death penalty. I was brought to tears with some of the stories and I couldn´t imagine the amount of emotional stress she has endured.

This book brings to light how complic...more
This was a good read. It was educational and entertaining. It highlights the career of a brilliant and dedicated woman, inspiring me with her stories that focus on humanity and empathy. Lyon humanizes death row inmates, allowing us to get a peek into their lives as well as into the criminal justice system itself. The book raises important questions about the death penalty and the rules by which it is applied. I think everyone should read this book. The writing is well done. At times, I found mys...more
Teri Pre
Excellent read. If you got this one for free, bump it up your list! It's great!
Huma Rashid
If I could go halfsies, this would get a 4.5. It's an incredible autobiography of the first woman to serve on the Murder Task Force in Cook County's Public Defenders office. (There was technically another 'first' woman but she lasted only a couple months and then quit, so the others on the task force didn't consider her a real member, and went back to hiring only men, until Andrea Lyon told the head of the force that maybe he'd just been hiring the wrong women or whatever.)

It focuses on Andrea's...more
"Sometimes I think of myself as an archaeologist of social despair, unearthing, layer by layer, my clients' descent into criminal jeopardy. The innocent are often drawn into a vulnerable position by the same destructive forces. This investigation was leading, as so many of my cases did, to the critical intersection of poverty and health. Mental illness, child abuse, environmental toxins--all are damaging on their own. When they are intertwined with poverty, the result is often a hopeless downwar
This book surprised me by making me think and wonder. It's written by a defense attorney who has worked mainly on cases with high stakes, where the penalty is either death or life in prison without parole. I've always been on the fence about the death penalty: I don't think I, personally, could vote for someone to be killed, but I like the fact that the "bad guys" are permanently out of the way.

Ms. Lyons knows that her job isn't popular; she's one of the people trying to defend those bad guys....more
Jerry Smith
I thought this was going to be more about the death penalty per se and an account of the trials themselves. There is certainly plenty of coverage of death penaly cases but the overall impression is that the system is broken. I guess that we knew that.

Death penalties are not always sought by the prosecution, but there are certain facts in a case that make it much more likely that there will a) be a conviction and b) that the defendant will be sentenced to death.

This is a very straightforward acc...more
I don't know what to say about this memoir. I thought I was against the death penalty before reading this book, but that has nothing on the conviction I feel now. Andrea Lyon is an amazing woman, and I wish I could believe in the innate goodness of people the way she does. 2 days ago, I wouldn't have thought it possible to smile while reading a book about the death penalty and a defense attorney, but I'd be wrong.
Joyce Donahue
Every day, juries around the country convict innocent people of serious crimes. If you have ever wondered how that can happen, Andrea Lyon's account of her career in the Cook County Illinois Public Defender's Office will provide you with unforgettable, often fascinating, stories of the real people behind the headlines - and the beliefs and actions of those who work in the criminal justice system.

Lyons, an extraordinary woman whose work with her students at DePaul University resulted in Governor...more
Mary Whisner
Angel of Death Row is Lyon's memoir, taking the reader from her legal education at a school that emphasized clinical experiences to the Cook County public defender's office, where she eventually rose to the position of chief of the Homicide Task Force. After she left public defense, she founded the Illinois Capital Resource Center and later moved to teaching.

Lyon reports the investigations and trials of many cases. "Winning" a case does not always mean the defendant is acquitted -- it can mean t...more
I loved this book. It was extremely well written (a few formatting errors on my Kindle) and well planned out. You do not have to have a law background to understand the point and yet the narrative is not "dumbed down" for the lay person.

We do not have the death penalty in WI but I thought I was a proponent of it. Why not if the punishment fits the crime and there is overwhelming evidence or admission of guilt? But this book really made me rethink my position, not in a forceful or argumentative o...more
A really good, very engrossing book about life as a public defense attorney that specializes in murder and death row cases. I was reluctant to read this, because I figured it would be very political and dry. This is anything but dry! The reader gets introduced to some unforgettable individuals and stories, and she keeps things moving along at a good clip. This book is really hard to set down and walk away from. And while Lyon does get strident and even a little preachy about the death penalty (w...more
Anyone who doesn't believe that our criminal justice system can be truly unfair and unjust should read this book. Disturbing case stories, in come cases of people being convicted on shockingly flimsy evidence, and/or important information being withheld from juries.

It was also interesting to hear about the changes over the years (the earliest cases she chronicles take place in the '70's and early '80's) in terms of attitudes toward issues like domestic violence and women in the workplace. In on...more
This is a subject that has been on my mind recently, due to the rash of wrongfully convicted death row inmates exonerated here in North Texas this past year. I found this book as a free kindle download and quite enjoyed reading it. After watching about a million episodes of Law and Order during my life, it was fascinating to see the process from the other side. I have mixed feelings on the death penalty (leaning towards the anti camp), so I certainly appreciated the points Lyon made about how sk...more
I am so disappointed in this book and this author. What could have been phenomenal insight into the plight of death row inmates in the United States is nothing more than an entire book of Ms. Lyon congratulating herself on being able to survive as a woman in a man's world. Clearly she was absent from school the day in writing class when we were all told "show, don't tell." The reader would have been able to feel the weight of Ms. Lyon's struggle to do what she loved and felt was right if she had...more
Carol Campbell
About 100 pages into this book I decided I was not going to finish it. However, having made that decision, it nagged at me until I picked the book back up and finished it. I love law so I thought I would not tire of the case-after-case examples of how the author defeated the death penalty or saved a client from it. Yes, I do believe there are innocent people on death row and in prison, serving time for crimes they did not commit. As cold as it seems, I just got tired of reading about them. God b...more
I thought the writing of this book was very good with significant "spinnage"! One has to remember who this author is and look for the "twists" put into her stories, as a result...Those not from the Cook County or Northern Illinois area wouldn't be familiar with her "work" therefore wouldn't understand her "track record". The only reason this book did not get one to two stars from me is because Ms. Lyon does write extremely well and persuasive...Just be watchful for the "twists". If you can't do...more
Susan Hillard
Fascinating. Brilliant. Wonderful.

A friend had been telling me to read this for years and I finally did. I started it and thought, oh no is this going to be super boring law jargon and complicated examples? Boy was I wrong. I think the thing I like best about Andrea Lyon's writing is her confidence. She doesn't go overboard to make you realize she's a genius. She explains everything easily and makes it interesting. She isn't trying to prove anything to anyone and I love it.

I once read a quote...more
Andreas takes you on a journey of what it is like to be a woman in a mans world back in the 1970's when women were just beginning to break in to several male dominated careers. In this book she shares stories of death row cases that she had worked on that have some real inconsistencies in the judicial system that many do not get a fair trial. She works as a defense attorney and also just as an appeals attorney. She does not get all of the clients off, but does succeed in telling the other side o...more
Great. As Alan Dershowitz so aptly described in the Foreword: "Lyon . . . has a low tolerance for BS."

Having worked with both prosecutors and public defenders, I can vouch that this book describes the real thing. Easy to read; I loved it.

I know this: defense attorney is hard . . . but "death penalty" defense is harder. I wouldn't prevent the death penalty. Personally, I think people like Richard Allen Davis (the fiend who kidnapped, violated and killed Polly Klaas) should be eliminated. He showe...more
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