- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Random House (December 28, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679440569
- ISBN-13: 978-0679440567
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,490,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Since the 1993 publication of her memoir Dead Man Walking and the 1995 film it inspired, Sister Helen Prejean has become a powerful and articulate presence in the fight against the death penalty in America. In The Death of Innocents, Prejean focuses her argument on the ways in which an unjust system may be killing innocent people. She tells the story of two inmates she came to know as a spiritual adviser. Dobie Williams, a poor black man with an IQ of 65 from rural Louisiana, was executed after being represented by incompetent counsel and found guilty by an all-white jury based mostly on conjecture and speculation. Joseph O'Dell was convicted of murder after the court heard from an inmate who later admitted to giving false testimony for his own benefit. O'Dell received neither an evidentiary hearing nor potentially exculpatory DNA testing and was executed, insisting on his innocence the whole while. Besides exploring the shaky cases against them, Prejean describes in vivid detail the thoughts and feelings of Williams and O'Dell as their bids for clemency fail and they are put to death. The second part of the book details "the machinery of death," the legal process that Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, dismayed at the inequities of the death penalty, cited as his reason for resigning and that current justice Antonin Scalia has boasted of being a part of. Prejean is impassioned as she describes what she sees as an arrogant attitude by both Scalia and the contemporary judicial system. Her chance confrontation with Scalia at an airport is a gripping collision of disparate worlds. In recent years, DNA testing has overturned the convictions of scores of prisoners, including many on death row. As the death penalty is increasingly called into question, Sister Helen Prejean will surely be a force in that debate. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Activist nun Prejean, whose crusade against the death penalty became widely known after Susan Sarandon portrayed her in the Oscar-winning film adaptation of her first book, Dead Man Walking, has again crafted a passionate indictment of the American criminal justice system. This time, with gripping, heartrending detail, Prejean draws on her experience advocating for two men she believes to have been innocent, but who were condemned to death row—Dobie Gillis Williams and Joseph O'Dell. While the book's subtitle removes any element of suspense, few readers will miss it. Instead, many will be outraged at a "machinery of death" weighted against the poor and African-Americans, featuring technical obstacles placed in the way of men desperately fighting for a fair hearing of evidence never elicited at their trials (O'Dell was denied appellate review by the highest court in Virginia because his lawyers typed one wrong word on his petition's title page). Prejean's tale involves a tragic, but not atypical, confluence of aggressive prosecutors (such as those in Louisiana, who display a "Big Prick" award featuring the state bird clutching in its talons a hypodermic needle used in lethal injections in its talons) and inept, ill-trained and apathetic defense attorneys. This damning critique should make even supporters of capital punishment pause, and the author's celebrity status, coupled with a timely message, should propel this onto bestseller lists.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
It's written in that down-home, inimitable style Sister Helen Prejean brings to both her writing and her speaking. The stories - especially the one of Dobie Gillis Williams - will ring your heart.
But the book goes a lot farther than telling stories about innocent people executed. It takes on the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia in particular, and challenges a system of justice which is so caught up in process and procedure it appears to have left human beings out of the equation. Finally, it asks the question, when we let such a system continue unchecked, what part of our own humanity do we lose?
Reading The Death of Innocents is an education; it's also a plain, good read.
Since I wrote the brief review above, I have discovered that Sr. Helen left out some evidence against the second of the two condemned men she writes about--evidence that makes her case for his innocence much less likely. It does not significantly lessen her arguments against the death penalty itself, but in leaving out such pertinent details, no doubt many will dismiss all of her arguments--effectively throwing out the baby along with the bathwater. This is why it is so important to be absolutely truthful, even if that truth seems somewhat harmful to our position. This is why I've always counseled that we in the abolition movement should never insist that someone on death row is innocent--because maybe, just maybe, we might be wrong on that score, and if evidence does come out that he is guilty after all, it undermines our cause. Instead, we should point to evidence that suggests he MIGHT be innocence (obviously, family and close friends of the condemned should be an exception, able to make whatever claim they wish). I admire Sr. Helen greatly, but to withhold important data as she did her is a terrible disservice to or cause. It is for this reason I removed one of my stars from my initial 5-star rating.
A long section also examines changing attitudes in the Christian community and in the Catholic Chuch in particular, leading to an official change in Catholic teaching in 1997 that ended its tacit support of the death penalty. Sister Helen may have played no small part in helping bring about that change.
The book may not convince everyone, but it presents a wealth of information that needs to be included in any debate on the death penalty.
If Sister Helen stumbled across two cases of factually innocent who have been executed, how many are out there on various Death Rows and about to be executed?