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The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates Hardcover – September 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For years, lawyer Ken Rose has fought to save wrongly-condemned prisoners; chronicling the story of Rose and death row inmate Bo Jones, author Temple (Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office) finds high drama in Raleigh penitentiaries, North Carolina backroads, cramped law offices, and sweltering courtrooms. Investigators, criminals, judges, witnesses, and attorneys are all finely, vividly drawn in this disturbing account of a justice system hijacked by officials whose prime interest is finding criminals to execute: "Even if Bo Jones wasn't one of the worst of the worst, they pursued him because he was one of the ones they could get." Reviewing the original 1987 murder, the consequent trials and endless hearings, Temple creates an intimate portrait of Rose and his Center for Death Penalty Litigation as they trudge through a decade of work on this case, a typical example that pits the odds and public opinion against them: "To question capital punishment was to appear soft on crime... In court, one well known district attorney sported a golden lapel pin shaped like a hangman's noose." Ultimately, Temple's account is a stand-up-and cheer account of one man standing up for justice.

Review

"For years, lawyer Ken Rose has fought to save wrongly-condemned prisoners; chronicling the story of Rose and death row inmate Bo Jones, author Temple (Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office) finds high drama in Raleigh penitentiaries, North Carolina backroads, cramped law offices, and sweltering courtrooms. Reviewing the original 1987 murder, the consequent trials and endless hearings, Temple creates an intimate portrait of Rose and his Center for Death Penalty Litigation as they trudge through a decade of work on this case, a typical example that pits the odds and public opinion against them: "To question capital punishment was to appear soft on crime… In court, one well known district attorney sported a golden lapel pin shaped like a hangman's noose." Ultimately, Temple's account is a stand-up-and cheer account of one man standing up for justice."



Publishers Weekly, starred review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (September 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604733551
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604733556
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Temple teaches journalism at West Virginia University in Morgantown, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

John takes regular breaks from that life to spend time in special worlds, including autopsy rooms and prisons and Florida. He takes pictures and records audio, if they let him. Then he comes back home and tries to make a story out of what he's seen or heard about.

He's written three narrative journalism books, including the forthcoming American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Crew of Doctors Unleashed the Deadliest Drug Epidemic in U.S. History (September 2015).

Temple also wrote Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office, published in 2005, and The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates, winner of the 2010 Scribes Book Award.

He also writes novels and screenplays and hopes to sell one soon.

For a proper biography, see John's WVU bio at http://reedcollegeofmedia.wvu.edu/faculty_staff/faculty/john_temple.

Also check out his website at www.johntemplebooks.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Mcgrew on November 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading "The Last Lawyer" last night. I would recommend it to anyone who has not been privy to the lengthy, complex and personal winding road of death penalty appeals and the court proceedings. I agree with Leonard Pitts (one of my favorite syndicated columnist) who, on the book jacket, describes the book as reading "like first-class legal fiction, but it's far more compelling because it is, tragically, legal fact." So true. It was an extremely easy read and felt like story unfolding before me. I found myself frequently saying "just one more short chapter" before going to bed. Extremely well written.

Readers of my blog ([...]) will likely find the later half of the book (starting on page 130) particularly interesting (and sobering) as the use of intelligence test scores and the diagnosis of MR/ID becomes a major point of the story. How some of those in the legal field (and one judge in particular) played with the IQ scores and failed to recognize that they are imperfect measures (the need to recognize measurement error) is eye-opening and sobering to those of us involved in intelligence testing development and research.

I give it two big thumbs up.

Dr. Kevin McGrew
Educational Psychologist
Director, Institute for Applied Psychometrics
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Helen Parsonage on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book in two evenings--it was very hard to put down. "The Last Lawyer" gives a well-written and compelling look at the work of capital postconviction defense. Whether you agree with the death penalty or not, I highly recommend this to you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Danny on November 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I finished The Last Lawyer late last night. It is a great book.

This is a suspenseful story written without overly dramatizing and without synthetic suspense prose. It makes the legal system (almost) comprehensible to the average person. The people are presented in a compelling manner with all their humanity on display, neither deified nor condemned, just presented with understanding and humor. The objectivity is laudable and is a lamentably lonely and badly needed model for journalists and non-fiction writers. This book will do a lot to help people understand the conundrum of death penalty law and practice, and it will be effective in part because the author reports the situation as he saw it without proselytizing. He neither pushs a viewpoint nor avoids saying what he sees. The people he admires have quirks and faults; those he doesn't have likable qualities. The writing seems very unselfconscious in this respect, which disarms the reader so accustomed to being manipulated by writers.

One important thing of many that I learned is the point of view of the prosecutor, that if the death penalty weren't on the books, it would scale down the punishments for murder. I had never realized that aspect, the huge role plea bargaining plays in the whole system. We will never know (my guess) about the motivational role of the death penalty in discouraging murder, but it does seem reasonable to predict easier punishments resulting from its abolition, and to me that's a serious problem. The greatest tragedy (except for murder victims) of it all seems to me the huge time delays in resolving cases. Living on death row for 20 years - I can't see any benefit to anyone in that.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By juniper12 on December 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'll admit that the subject of this book is not something I usually gravitate to, but I received it as a gift, and was pleasantly surprised. This is a compelling story for many reasons. For example, the story of Bo, his conviction, and his family is an interesting one. However, the author takes complicated (and potentially dry) topics such as also death row legal cases, mental retardation evaluation, and appellate courts, and explains them in an understandable and fascinating way. I read this book in 2 days... couldn't put it down! I think that this would be a great gift for anyone who loves to read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rebeccawvulaw06 on January 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Like the others, I also couldn't put this down. I received the book on the 23rd and was done by the 24th!!! Amazing - although I am not normally defense-oriented in the legal sense, this book allowed me to see it and understand it from the other side. I was drawn to the defendant's story and legal issues - and I just had to find out how he fared in it all. Its good to see the system that I work in really works - and that justice will prevail for which ever side it is owed to.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl on December 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Spellbinding. It read like a suspenseful novel -- I couldn't put it down. The characters of Sara and Mark were my favorites; they came to life on the pages. You don't need to be a lawyer to like this. Much more riveting than Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Trust me, The Last Lawyer is the best book I've read all year.
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