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Angel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer Hardcover – January 5, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Andrea D. Lyon is Director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases and Clinical Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs, at DePaul University College of Law. She began her career at the Cook County Public Defenders' Office, working her way up to Chief of the Homicide Task Force, a 22-lawyer unit that represents people accused of homicide.

Lyon has tried more than 130 homicide cases, both within the public defender's office and elsewhere. She has defended more than 30 potential capital cases at the trial level. Of these, she has taken 19 through the penalty phase, and won them all. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Kaplan Publishing (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607144344
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607144342
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tara Chevrestt VINE VOICE on January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 tale with a brief look at her childhood and her aspirations and how she became a D.A. Her cases over fourteen years include battered wives, ex police officers, a man that wanted the death penalty in hopes it would ban divorce in the long run, a gang member possibly mis identified in a line up, an innocent man that spent four years in jail anyway, a pcp murderer, and more. To top that off, Ms. Lyon also had to deal with prejudice judges not only making comments about her sex, but also about her weight.

A major issue under scrutiny throughout the book is racism and how race determines one's treatment in court and how judges, lawyers, and jurors often cannot see behind the skin tone.

An amazing woman with an amazing career to tell about. I liked how gutsy Ms. Lyon was towards many a sexist judge. I also liked how she kept her personal life to minimum and did not overburden readers with too much personal details. You know she is having a baby and going thru a tough relationship, but there is no lurid details or word for word conversations.

Great book. I plan on reading it again one day.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is written by Andrea Lyon, one of America's most famous criminal defense attorneys. I first read about her in "Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago's Cook County's Public Defender's Office" by Kevin Davis. It was what made me want to be a criminal defense attorney in the first place. When I interviewed with my boss, he mentioned Andrea Lyon in our first interview, and my face must have lit up because he asked if I knew her. I responded that I hadn't, but I wanted to. And he mentioned that she was one of his best friends and they occasionally tried cases together. (At that point, I died and was dead.) Later, after he'd introduced me to her, I mentioned to Professor Lyon that I first read about her in Defending the Damned, to which she replied. "Oh. You should read MY book!" And I replied, "I DID! IT WAS GREAT!"

And it really is. It's a gripping, compelling, deeply personal account of Prof. Lyon's time as a criminal defense attorney in Chicago. (She still is, but she's also the Dean of DePaul University's law school's clinical programs, and next year will be the Dean of Valparaiso Law. She wears many hats.) This isn't for the faint of hearts, and it isn't for those people who want to ask, "But how can you defend someone like THAT?"

Well, I take that back. It might be for the latter, if they're willing to learn rather than just pass judgment. This book is nothing short of an inspiration for young criminal defense attorneys, like me, and law students, like I used to be. It's a collection of stories from Prof. Lyon's time in the trenches, when she became the first female to lead the Murder Task Force, an elite group of public defenders who only handled death penalty cases.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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 simply be unfair. Lyon strikes a beautiful balance here by never sounding boastful even as she describes the Herculean feats she has accomplished in her life and work. She clearly takes pride in her accomplishments, but she is always humble and understated in making you understand how well-deserved that pride really is. If anything, she is too humble, which risks giving the impression that the cases she tried, the battles she won, were not all that difficult, when nothing could be further from the truth. Fighting the immense power of the state, standing up to prejudice and fear, working with and for people upon whom the rest of society has given up, then figuring out how to connect with a jury, finding a way to get 12 people to see past their fears and prejudices and biases and see the human being they are judging—it all takes something close to magic and for Lyon to make it seem easy shows just how good she is.

But that's exactly why everyone should read this book: it's a collection of powerful and poignant examples of how important public defenders are and what a valuable role they play in out society. Lyon kept innocent people out of prison and prevented the state from destroying valuable and redeemable human lives.
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