- 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: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,253,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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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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. The state spent millions building Mecklenburg but then proceeded to pay the corrections officers so badly that they were clearly prey to scams and wheezes to earn a dishonest dollar to live on. It really does beggar belief that officers could allow inmates to continue to behave as though they were out on the streets with ready access to money, drugs, weapons and even firearms. It is a miracle that none were killed in the course in the escape - they certainly deserved to pay a heavy price for their foolishness.
However, the behavior of the escapers after they gained their freedom shows their real level of intelligence. They had no plan beyond getting out of Mecklenburg and their behavior was such that they were readily recaptured. Even the Brileys, the alleged master manipulators and brains behind the escape, behaved in a thoroughly predictable fashion and did little to keep a low profile.
Readers who are familiar with Supreme Court death penalty cases will meet many familiar names with walk on parts in this book - Giarratano, Coleman and others. The book is interesting enough as a general read but adds little to our knowledge of death row or the administration of justice. The only real eye opener is the way corrections officers, in their eagerness to earn a buck or have a quiet life, were so ready to endanger their own lives.
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!