Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer” as Want to Read:
Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  602 Ratings  ·  88 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Angel of Death Row, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Angel of Death Row

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Larry Bassett
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: death-penalty, memoir
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
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Susan (aka Just My Op) 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.
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 13, 2010 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
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crimlaw
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
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two words come to mind with this book, ambition and justice.

I think we can all agree that ambition is a good thing, responsible for pushing the individual to achieve. Yet it can be good for oneself and bad for others. If I say I want to be the richest person in the world, without qualification, then the means I use to try to achieve my goal can destroy lives. For ambition to be ethical, it must take others into consideration.

The ideal individual ambition, for society, is one that depends upon pr
Tara Chevrestt
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's a pleasure to read about people in the criminal justice system working tirelessly to ensure that everyone is treated fairly under the law. Her stories of providing counsel for the poor are well-written and describe unbelievably sad cases of people being done wrong. After being infuriated at the injustices being described, I think I cried at the end of each chapter when things were made right.
Erin Carey
Feb 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Khris Sellin
Mar 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really truly believe that you are more than your worst act and less than your best act. Humans are exasperatingly complicated. How I come to a decision (good or bad) is completely different than how you come to a decision. People do heinous crimes, but that is not the sum of who they are, they are people with emotions, dreams, expectations too. I am not talking about serial killers or people suffering from severe psychosis. Crime committed by the rich compared to the poor is fascinating as wel ...more
Ana-Maria Bujor
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have always had great interest in systems that still have the death penalty, together with its moral implications and the risk to put innocent people to death. Clearly the system is far from perfect and this book, although definitely subjective, shows it powerfully. I have great respect for the people who work hard as public defenders to do the best they can for what most of us perceive to be the scum of the earth. So this is why I could not stop reading this series of account that have the pe ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 couldnt imagine the amount of emotional stress she has endured.

This book brings to light how complica
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Being a public defender is a tough job, and I respect anyone who takes it on. Having said that, I wish ALL public defenders took their jobs as seriously as Andrea Lyons! This book made me want to be a better lawyer. It also reminded me why I'm not pursuing criminal law!
3.5 Very engaging autobiography. Fascinating stories. Helped me decide whether I would want to be a lawyer.
Teri Pre
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-reads
Excellent read. If you got this one for free, bump it up your list! It's great!
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, although the Kindle edition was full of typos.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I thought I would have a hard time with this one--not because of the subject matter but because many of these books either go overboard with the details of the people involved or with the legal aspect. Obviously, as an attorney, I am interested in the legal maneuverings but to much of that gets dry quickly. At the same time, too much of the people details ends up feeling shmoopy. Ms. Lyon strokes a nice balance between the two.

Not only that, she does so in a way that is extraordinarily comp
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about the criminal justice system and the life of a death penalty defense lawyer. I'm thankful for the new awareness. Rarely is anything as cut and dry as it may appear. Andrea is a unique person who fights tirelessly for what is right. We need more people like her.
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: law
"Intractable human problems produce damaged people who then do violence to others." Quoting the Criminal podcast, "people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle."
"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
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Huma Rashid
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jerry Smith
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Tyler Storm
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pretty good book but the author makes it sort of a faux autobiography. I don't really need to know all the intricate details of her life such as her failed marriage, when she stopped taking birth control, and her love of Jazz. She does provide good insight into her cases and the politics of the verdicts/trial.

This book is a good primer to the criminal justice system and what it is like being a public defender(albeit a high ranking public defender, not a low entrylevel public defender). Quite emo
Joyce Donahue
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mary Whisner
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Unbillable Hours: A True Story
  • Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice
  • En Route: A Paramedic's Stories of Life, Death, and Everything in Between
  • Lives in the Balance: Nurses' Stories from the ICU
  • Final Moments: Nurses' Stories about Death and Dying
  • Shakespeare In an Hour
  • A Child al Confino: A True Story of Escape in War-Time Italy
  • The Autobiography of an Execution
  • Andersonville Diary
  • Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County Public Defender's Office
  • The Hands of the Buddha
  • Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir
  • The Teachable Moment: Seizing the Instants When Children Learn
  • Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling
  • Crime: Its Cause and Treatment
  • The Socratic Dialogues
  • Ransom X (A Legacy Mystery #1)
  • City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance, and 9/11
“I believed, and still believe, that every person amounts to more than the worst thing he or she has ever done.” 0 likes
“facile reassurances. “What does that mean?” I asked.” 0 likes
More quotes…