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Death Row: The Final Minutes: My life as an execution witness in America’s most infamous prison

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  495 ratings  ·  68 reviews

First as a reporter and then as a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Michelle was a frequent visitor to Huntsville's Walls Unit, where she recorded and relayed the final moments of death row inmates' lives before they were put to death by the state.

Michelle was in the death chamber as some
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published May 3rd 2018 by Blink Publishing
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3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  495 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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May 15, 2018 marked it as awaiting-review-but-read  ·  review of another edition
Michelle Lyons' theme song could be "We shall not be moved". It takes a lot to get her going, and executions just don't do it. Getting fired unfairly does, that she's passionate about. You'd think it would be the other way round wouldn't you?

This is two books in one. The first is the author as an execution witness. It's interesting but she is such a dispassionate person that it's not involving. The second is the author being fired because she preferred blunt honesty than falsification for the sa
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book for the most part, to be rather interesting, in a morbid kind of way, and it was my raging curiosity that led me to buy it. The book contains shifting views from two individuals that worked in communication within this line of work. While there was many interesting snippets of information here, it was pretty frustrating at times to follow, and the actual writing wasn't anything special.

There is a rather a large section covered by Lyons, where she talks about her lawsuit that s
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tough but incredible read.
This memoir recounts Lyons experiences whilst working as a reporter, then a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice between 2000 - 2012.

During that time Lyons witnessed nearly 300 executions, I felt that the subject matter was handled with a delicate understanding and care.
It certainly gave me a better understanding of the American justice system.

Reading more like a compilation of case notes meant the narrative was a little uneven at times, it does g
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star
This was a fascinating book about life as a journalist covering the Texas prison scene, and more specifically death row inmates. I found it fraught with honesty and was impressed upon how the author made a name for herself in a very male dominated work environment.

The authors story covers how she began in earnest covering local crime news and progressed to witnessing the execution of hundreds of death row inmates in the execution capital of America. As a British reader, I’ve always found it utt
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting concept, but lacking in execution (pardon the pun).

Michelle Lyons is from Texas, but the book uses British English, which is quite jarring when the events take place in the south. This book was published by a British house, but it seems an odd choice, especially with no explanation.

I'm not sure how much of the book was written by Ms. Lyons, as she acknowledges a ghost writer. But the writing is nothing special.

The backstories of the inmates and the details of their executions are
Rob Twinem
Disappointing Michelle Lyons acts as a go between for the Huntsvilles Walls unit in Texas and press, families etc. Essentially Death Row is a chronicle of the time she spent there, the prisoners executed and the people she knew. The novel reads like a diary as she recalls those awaiting death by injection and explains how attached she became to so many. There are some interesting facts such as the number of executions greatly increased under the Bush presidency and delays of up to 20 years befor ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Meh. Badly written, a wasted opportunity.
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started slow but stick with it, it gets better.
Sometimes a little personal and self opinionated but the brings it back in.
I love the segments on the inmates themselfs I would have liked to have seen more of the inmates in their own words but over all a good book.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This story is about seeing the humanity in others, plain and simple. It doesn't matter what your view on the death penalty is, but shows a history of how Michelle's views morphed as she grew older and gained new perspectives in life. She focuses on the inmates as people, not monsters (well, not all of them at least). I thoroughly enjoyed her story, as she has an extremely rare view on the subject of the death penalty.
Tracy Shephard
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous read and one that stirred emotions and thoughts that I never thought I had.

Michelle Lyons witnessed over 300 deaths. The men and women sentenced to death by the state of Texas were sometimes the worst that society had bred, some were just unfortunate to have been given a death sentence for a crime that in other places would have justified a life sentence and others... well.. the thing this book does best is that it gives the reader a chance to decide for themselves.

The process
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
I found this a very compelling read, but ultimately like most books on this topic, a problematic one.
Initially it reads as an interesting exposition of what appears to be a shift in views on the death penalty from two individuals who worked in communications roles in the industry. I appreciated the honesty and extremely candid views shared, despite how difficult they were to read and digest!

The book also covers how the author ended up leaving the role she was in, and discussions about corruption
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a disturbing, unsettling and challenging book. But it is a must read. I was sickened by the tales of the crimes of violence. Being around violence and people who committed horrid acts, even without the executions, has to affect you. There’s a strange contradiction: an ostensible self-reflection and awareness of the impact of her job, an apparent admission that came late in her life that witnessing all the executions affected her. But then Lyons undercuts this awareness by saying it hasn’ ...more
Amanda Provan
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
This wasn't anywhere near as good as I was hoping it was going to be. Hearing about executions is interesting but this book lacked the structure and writing skills, which is surprising considering Michelle Lyons was a journalist for quite a few years. It had no real structure, it was all over the place and there were far too many people in the book to keep track of.
Rob Twinem
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Michelle Lyons acts as a go between for the Huntsvilles Walls unit in Texas and press, families etc. Essentially Death Row is a chronicle of the time she spent there, the prisoners executed and the people she knew. The novel reads like a diary as she recalls those awaiting death by injection and explains how attached she became to so many. There are some interesting facts such as the number of executions greatly increased under the Bush presidency and delays of up to 20 years before most residen ...more
G. Goodson
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ok read.

Kind of of whoa is me book. I feel she has an ax to grind and that's what came out in this book. No job is flawless and perfect to its employees. You do your job and cash their pay checks, or you look for something else you won't enjoy, in time. Get over yourself!
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-ebooks, 2018
Disclosure: The author is a friend of mine.
Michelle has always been a good writer and storyteller and that hasn't changed since I worked with her in the mid 90s. I read the book in only a few hours, staying up past my bedtime. I already knew the basic outlines of both Michelle's life and career but even so, I didn't want to stop reading.

Most of us have no contact with prisoners on death row but this book allows the world to see into the Texas prison system and what happens behind those walls. I
Sharon Jones
May 20, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zsófi Németh
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Honestly I would have preferred more objective facts, more interesting details about the mental state of the inmates, their last meals, thoughts, behavior during the execution. I had to sadly experience that this book more of a mea culpa, when the author tries to justify her “job” by defending it all the time: “not my fault, it’s just a job I have to do, I am tough” so she clearly was not okay with it, from the memories of her childhood is obvious that she had some real pressure on her to succee ...more
Hannah Renowden
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was interesting to begin with, Lyons' experience of the execution chamber is moving and disturbing and she brings up lots to think about and churn over. However it quickly becomes meandering and almost purposeless. It becomes less a book about execution and more about Lyons' personal life and employment issues. I am sure these topics will interest people, but I became very lost amongst the ranting.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I remember this book being advertised in the Daily Mail in 2018, and had wanted to read it since then - it was worth the wait.

If you're looking for a book with gory details about executions, this isn't it. This book is so much more - it's Michelle's memoir (and Larry's!) and features other details of her life, but the main focus is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (or TDCJ) where Michelle worked, and where she witnessed as many as 280 executions.

I really enjoyed this memoir - going from
Paula Nichols
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is January's book from the library, albeit a little late!

My library choices are those that I wouldn't ordinarily buy,and this fitted the bill. The title sounds macabre, but actually it was far from it. Michelle Lyons' book is a truthful account of the Texas Department of Correctional Justice - more accurately the Death Row section - and her experiences from being a young reporter to what was essentially constructive dismissal. Death row inmates came across as generally calm and repentant p
Gareth Stevens
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
As with many people who have read this book, it's not witnessing the alarming regularity of the Texas Killing Machine masquerading as justice, but the birth of a child and getting fired was thing to jolt Ms. Lyons into action to write a book. Weird.

It's not the first time in my life that I have sat with my mouth hanging open when I hear about the details of something for the first time. I recently watched 13th on Netflix, which is a great prologue for this book - understanding the profit of inca
Jane Jackson
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am anti-death penalty and before I read this book I didn't understand why anybody would support it. I still don't support it, but I now have a far more nuanced view of the subject. Death Row: The Final Minutes is a poignant, thought-provoking and sometimes tough read, about how capital punishment affects everybody involved, including the engaging Michelle Lyons, whose job it was to watch men and women die in the death chamber and who tells her story with great care, empathy and, where appropri ...more
Natalie Liddle
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully written book which I thoroughly enjoyed.
This is a book I wanted to read but was hesitant because I was not sure how it would make me feel but it is written exceptionally well with great sensitivity and passion.
There are lots of people who I don’t understand how they do what they do and Michelle is definitely one of them and I feel that the system has suffered a great loss since her departure but I also feel from reading this that everything happens for a reason and this was her tim
Donna Bateman
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Although the theme of this book was sad in places (for the author); this was a really interesting book and I don't think that I've ever seen anything else like it. The reason why I bought it was because I had a curiosity with regards to the American Justice system and the reasons why they still have the ultimate penalty.
Ms Lyon's writes with the emotional authority of someone who has witnessed so many and not once did it come across with any of the sensationalism that is usually in the tabloids.
Mrs E A Noblett
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You must read this.

I am not at all sure how I came to read this book, I am not usually a fan of non fiction, but I did read it and in one sitting. Ignoring housework, the promise to bake more cookies for the tin, even the need to visit the loo! It is an outstanding read, more revealing than any polemic concerning the death penalty, an honest and sometimes brutal memoir of one woman - and her colleagues ' - experiences of the 'ultimate bureaucratic act'. It made me think deeply about an issue tha
Debbie Cleaveley
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
An odd book, more about the author than death row, but with some interesting insights into various executions, the processes involved and the ongoing emotional effect that this has on inmates and prison staff alike. The latter part of the book deals with the author’s own injustices inflicted by a change in administration. Avoided the salacious thankfully but a little disjointed and more of a confessional memoir about making sense of capital punishment than the act itself. Worth a read but not su ...more
Louise Taylor
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
The worst book I have read in quite some time. It is poorly written with little structure. The author is unlikeable and try's so hard to come across as some sort of badass, strong woman, using unnecessary profanity to try and highlight just how badass she is.

With her experience in witnessing so many executions, this book potentially could have been great. Instead she used her experience to write a book that took swipe after swipe at people she felt had wronged her, again this was unnecessary and
Missy Maykis
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This wasn’t just a book about death row in Texas, as I thought it would be. It was much more than that.

This book covered the morality of the death penalty. The closure it brings some and the tragedy it brings other. I found it fascinating to see Michelle’s side of a prisoner’s final moments of life. Not only did they know that this day was coming, but they knew it would be supported by some and viewed by an audience.

Michelle also covers the gender issues associated with working in a prison as
Ezra Maloney
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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“I have a pocket of inner darkness that sometimes consumes me and makes me want to shut out the world.” 0 likes
“If you believe everything an inmate says in his last statement, then Texas has put hundreds of innocent men to death.” 0 likes
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