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Dead Run: The Shocking Story of Dennis Stockton and Life on Death Row in America Paperback – October, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Dead Run is the story of Dennis Stockton, mastermind of one of the most daring mass prison breaks in American history. It begins with his conviction for a crime he maintained that he didn't commit and weaves through his troubled life, his perpetual incarcerations, and his often brilliant, often comical escapades within the prison system. With frequent excerpts from Stockton's prolific diaries, the book reveals not only much about its surprisingly insightful protagonist but about the prison system in general, including institutionalized corruption, power-hungry guards, inmates, and prison officers. There's more than enough intrigue, action, and disturbing comedy to fill several thrillers, but Dead Run is a true story of a man who refused to sit still and wait for the hour of his death. --Lisa Higgins --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A career criminal who was in and out of prison from the time he was caught passing bad checks as a teenager, Dennis Stockton was no angel. But, as journalists Jackson and Burke convincingly demonstrate, he was wrongly executed for a murder he didn't commit. In this chilling account drawing on interviews and Stockton's own death row writings (some of which they published in their newspaper, the Virginia Pilot), the authors paint a picture of a prison system as inept as it is corrupt and cruel, and of justice severely perverted. The man who allegedly hired Stockton to kill a North Carolina teenager in 1978 was never prosecuted. And the sole witness, himself a convict, who testified against Stockton was later heard bragging of committing the murder himself. But Virginia, where Stockton was tried, prohibits introducing new evidence more than 21 days after conviction. Stockton also brought trouble on himself with his prison diary and his decision to publish parts of it in the Virginia Pilot, the state's largest newspaper. In the diary, he revealed inside information about the escape of six fellow death row inmates on Memorial Day weekend 1984. Stockton related that underpaid and often corrupt guards were either incompetent or actively assisted the prisoners (all of whom were captured within three weeks). The revelations enraged prison guards and inmates, putting Stockton's life in danger, and embarrassed the state, in all likelihood ending any hopes Stockton might have had for clemency. Burke and Jackson offer a gripping inside look at the life usually hidden behind prison walls and a frightening indictment of the criminal justice system. 25 illus.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 299 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802775993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802775993
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By kenneth briggs on December 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What struck me most about Dead Run is how well it is reported. This is not a tract; it is an elaborate journalistic mosaic of the grim realities behind the loud cries for death row vengeance. Jackson and Burke provide the story that allows readers to draw their own conclusions. There are no saints and justice is elusive at best. It is an account that has left a deep impression in this reader's consciousness.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By jack olsen on November 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
DEAD RUN is the best work of crime journalism I've read since THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. It transcends the increasingly shabby true-crime genre. It is a superb study of life on Death Row. It is the latest proof that the land of the free continues to execute the innocent. It is a jailbreak story that rivals PAPILLON. It is crime history at its most elevated, and yet there's not a stodgy line. Social context is never forgotten, but the narrative line chugs ahead like a runaway locomotive. I will re-read this book many times and recommend it to all who enjoy a great yarn and responsible journalism.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Julian P Killingley on March 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a lightweight but interesting read. It suffers from the authors' inability to decide whether to focus on Dennis Stockton or the great escape. The reality is that the escape has little to do with Stockton - the authors' understandable fascination with the details of the escape rather detract from their focus on Stockton.
Stockton is an interesting character and I don't feel that this book really does the merits of his (unsuccessful) legal appeals proper justice. Stockton's appearance has a peculiarly haunting quality to it with his deeply sunken shadowed eyes and lined face. One cannot help but think that his disreputable former lifestyle substantially contributed to his eventual demise - he was a person that a clever prosecutor could easily portray in a very bad light.
The authors have privileged access to Stockton's own words and their account draws on this to give the reader an unusually authentic look into the strange world of Death Row. I feel that more could have been made of this as Stockton was a perceptive observer who left a substantial record.
However, the authors are beguiled by the great escape from Mecklenburg Correctional Center and dwell lovingly on its every detail. I'm afraid that I am not as impressed by this as the authors obviously were. There is some lionizing of the escapers, especially the singularly unattractive Briley brothers. The reality is that the escape was only possible because of the extraordinary stupidity of the corrections officers. Yes - the inmates had a fair degre of low cunning, but I would not elevate that to the degree of intelligence the authors imply they possessed.
What is truly amazing is the regime at Mecklenburg and Virginia's parsimonious funding of its corrections facilities.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By George Lyle on December 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a reporter at the daily paper that coverd the Stockton case from arrest to execution (and now as a lawyer with the firm that helped defend him during his original trial), i can say the writers did an excellent job of piecing together the puzzel that was Dennis Stockton. I disagree with some of the conclusions, but never the less find their reporting thorough, but not cumbersome.
What was especially insighful was Dennis' image and opinion of his death row neighbors. I know lawyers and reporters familiar with some of them and his observations are interesting in comparison.
From the first day I reported on this story (which was already some seven years inot thecase) I thought this case had book material written all over it. I am glad that the book was done and done with such thoroughness and a reasoned point of view.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RET on March 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Dead Run" is the best prison drama I have ever read, made more gripping by the fact that it is ALL TRUE. The bookd recounts the final prison term of Dennis Stockton, who was probably innocent and spent over a decade on Death Row. The first part of the book deals with the only successful mass escape from Death Row in American history, but the drama does not end there. Following that, by following Stockton through the system and finally to his execution, one becomes acquainted with the grim, crushing reality of the brutality and neglect of the American prison system.
On top of being a gripping tale of prison life, the book is a damning account of capital punishment and our prison system in general. By picking Stockton as a subject, a probably innocent man singled out by the UN as an example of a case of capital punishment that did not meet up with the standards expected of international law, the authors make a ringing statement against death penalty laws and procedures in the United States. Only the most rabid pro-death penalty advocate could read this book and not come away questioning their support for the execution of criminals.
A further feature that permeates the story is just how seedy and corrupt everyone and everything in the book are. The courts, the cops, the guards, the prisoners, the politicians - they are all part of the same basically corrupt world. Only (not coincidentally) the reporters and some of the witnesses come off as being white in a very grey and black world.
The book is a magnificent, cannot-put-it-down peice of work that I heartily recommend to any lover of a good non-fiction tale!
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