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Back from the Dead Paperback – September 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470017511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470017517
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Editorial Reviews

Review

…an extraordinary achievement…bittersweet…powerful" (The Irish Independent Supplement, July 2006)


  “…amazing narrative…” (Lancashire Evening Post, August 2006)

  “…important messages shine through…” (BB Focus Magazine, August 2006)

"A fabulous book about the darker side of human nature." (South Wales Argus, October 2006)

"...this volume is essential reading...Highly recommended." ( LibraryJournal.com, 2006)

"A riveting, if emotionally unsettling, book... impassioned, heartfelt, and moving..." ( New York Law Journal, November 2006)

"...an extraordinary report..." (The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express, August 2006)
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

As a young lawyer Joan Cheever served as co-counsel for Walter Williams, an inmate on Texas’ Death Row. For nine years she attempted to stave off his execution until, in October 1994, his chances finally ran out. At his request Joan stood beside him at his execution; it was an experience that changed the course of her life.

In the months following Walter’s execution Joan continued to ask herself how events might have been different: would Walter have committed the crime if he’d had better opportunities in life or a more supportive family? And how would he have lived if he had been granted a second chance at life?

The only people who could help to answer these gnawing questions were other convicted murderers. In 1972, the US Supreme Court abolished the death penalty: a ruling that stayed in place until 1976, granting hundreds of convicted killers a second chance at life. Joan embarked on an exhaustive and dangerous search to track down and interview these murderers, most of whom didn’t want to be found. Many had built entirely new lives and had become valued members of their communities; a very small number had killed again. Joan Cheever interviewed the murderers to find out if they had managed to rebuild their lives; she also spoke with the families of victims. The personal stories that she tells here contribute to a ground-breaking exploration of the issues at the very heart of the capital punishment debate. 

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

I can only hope that many will be as moved and inspired as I have been.
Edward L. Beck
Ms. Cheever gives a thought-provoking, yet compassionate story of The Class of '72, inmates whose destiny changed with the Supreme Court decision.
Zippi Keil
As a practicing attorney in Texas, I relished every single word of this book.
Sally L. Justice

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Katrina D. Mukherjee on September 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a 'Moderate Conservative', my interest in this book was initially based only on two factors 1) the author was a native San Antonian and 2) the statistical analysis approach appealed to the math major in me.

With that said, I can now say I have rarely read a book that caused me to examine my own deeply held beliefs, prejudices and opinions so honestly. Much like the authors mother, I have allways subscribed to the concept of 'an eye for an eye' and have believed in the good 'ol Texas version of justice.

Mrs. Cheever very carefully and very methodically tracked down, researched and interviewed men that our justice system said should now be dead. She very candidly discusses those that the justice system may have been right about (those that continued to kill and commit crimes). But she also takes us into the homes and lives of men who were in fact 'rehabilitated' and lived (and still live) productive, law-abiding and loving lives. However, she does not glamorize those men, nor does she excuse the crimes they committed. At all times, she keeps the reader aware of the innocent lives that were lost and the family's that still deal with the grief of those losses.

She raises the very valid question -can those sentenced to death as 'no hope for rehabilitation' actually be rehabilitated? While the justice system and arm-chair psychiatrists have strong opinions - Mrs. Cheever has used actual facts to unquestionably prove that 'Yes' it can be done and has been done.

Due to a brief stay of execution afforded these men - the world has the opportunity to see what became of their lives - lives that should not have continued based on the death sentence they received for their crimes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Janet Bonner on September 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Tracking down 589 people is no small undertaking. Ms. Cheever not only does justice to any overwhelming task, but delves into the depths of the Class of '72, who received a second chance at life after having been sentenced to death. While on her journey to find what became of the "lottery winners" winners of Furman v. Georgia, Ms. Cheever touched their souls while exposing her own. In the end the author learns the meaning of forgiveness and becomes a "healer" in justice system wrought with injustice.

The reader learns where and who some of the reprieved convicts are today with the added insight of Ms. Cheever's underpinings through snipets of her colorful Texas family. Just as the reader comes up for air, having met a former death row inmate, having heard the facts of his crime and punishment, the author teases the reader with a preview the next unsavory character. Putting down the book at this point is not an option. In the end there is much to ponder. Kudos to Ms. Cheever whose Notes are as good a read as the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Edward L. Beck on August 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Joan M. Cheever has accomplished the rare task of delivering a book that is both entertaining and riveting, and yet has a message and something to teach us. With an expert blend of memoir and serious sociological study (about what happened when Death Row inmates were released from prison), Ms. Cheever has woven a story of redemption and hope with an apologia for abolishing the Death Penalty in this country. Her words deserve wide readership. I can only hope that many will be as moved and inspired as I have been.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sylvia Vargas on July 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
What a great read. I couldn't put it down and stayed up way too late turning page after page. The author knows how to keep your attention. The subject matter is timely and the story is fascinating. I even read the footnotes (which I never do). I plan to read it again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roger C. Barnes on July 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Lawyer and journalist Joan Cheever has written a remarkable account of the "class of 72," the Death Row prisoners whose death sentences were invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia.

Ms. Cheever sets out to answer some compelling questions. Where are these prisoners today? Of the 587 men and 2 women in the class of '72, how many are out of prison? How many killed again? Could any of the group be rehabilitated? What do they teach us about the death penalty?

Joan Cheever sets out on a detective-like journey, and by the time this saga reaches its conclusion, she has taken the reader through much of the death penalty experience. This is a truly human story, and it is important to remember the fact that it is human beings who sit on our Death Rows, even if we frequently transform them into "monsters." In short, Back From The Dead is a story for anybody interested in the death penalty, no matter whether one is for it or against it.

Most readers will find this book to be a true "page turner." Consider the opening paragraph from chapter one:

"It was 85 degrees that night in Huntsville, Texas. I sat alone in a booth at the McDonald's, off IH-45, drinking coffee and picking at a plate of greasy French fries, staring at the clock on the wall. The clock ticked too slowly for me, but too quickly for Walter Williams, my 32-year-old client, who sat alone just a mile away, in his cell on Death Row. We were both waiting for midnight."

What a great opener! Crisp and compelling. And what follows sustains the drama and intrigue. Ms. Cheever has done first-rate research in tracking down the class of '72, and the story that unfolds in Back From The Dead is brilliantly written and her analysis is most solid. I highly recommend this book.
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