towards the end of david dow's 'the autobiography of an execution', he writes:
"The cases I have written about are not unusual. My other cases, every d...moretowards the end of david dow's 'the autobiography of an execution', he writes:
"The cases I have written about are not unusual. My other cases, every death-penalty lawyer's cases, are just like them. What's missing is the proof that what you have just finished reading is mundane. The day after Henry Quaker got put to death, my colleagues and I went back to the office and did it all over again, and all the same things happened."
and this is maddening. this should be enough to convince any rational human being that the death penalty is flawed. one innocent person put to death is one too many.
dow's book is at turns suspenseful, illuminating, morose, maddening, sentimental, hard-boiled, and provocative. it's a book that is not easy to classify. it's more memoir than anything, due to the subject matter -- due to attorney-client privilege, dow has been forced to cobble a true story out of true stories without actually telling the true story. that's pretty much the definition of memoir, but in a book about crime and justice, we usually want facts and dates and names and details. it's a tall order for a writer to win our trust enough to tell a true story that is not actually 'true.' but he succeeds.
at points i did find that dow's home life details intruded on the story that i wanted to hear. i am not so sure how much of that was his fault, and how much of it was that i was interested in reading a different book. i found the juxtaposition of his picture-perfect family and his penchant for expensive whiskeys and cuban cigars against the backdrop of desperate death row inmates who lived in poverty to be a bit distracting and maybe even distasteful. but that is a minor gripe. someone doing the thankful work that dow does surely deserves such little victories in life -- for there are not many to be had in his professional life.
"I'd do exhaustive research, write a powerful legal argument, and then watch no one pay it any heed. The problem with this lawyerly approach is that nobody cares about rules or principles when they're dealing with a murderer. The lawyer says that the Constitution was violated every which way, and the judge says, Yeah, but your client killed somebody, right? For all our so-called progress, the tribal vengefulness that we think of as limited to backward African countries is still how our legal system works. Deuteronomy trumps the Sixth Amendment every time. Prosecutors and judges kowtow to family members of murder victims who demand an eye for an eye, and the lonely lawyer declaiming about proper procedures is a shouting lunatic in the asylum whom people look at curiously and then walk on by."(less)