- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Basic Civitas Books (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 046500265X
- ISBN-13: 978-0465002658
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South Hardcover – April 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
I AM N-N-NOT DYING! screamed Willie Francis, a 17-year-old African-American convicted of murder by an all-white Louisiana jury in 1946, during the failed electrocution that kicks off this tale of justice gone awry in the segregated American South. As told in a sometimes repetitious avalanche of detail by King (Woman, Child for Sale), Francis's story is emblematic of the time and place—a prominent white man in a Cajun town was gunned down, and soon Francis was picked up and, under duress and without an attorney, confessed to the crime. Despite no eyewitnesses and scant physical evidence, Francis was convicted and sentenced to death. After surviving the first execution attempt, he waited in prison nearly a year while the battle over his fate went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. After a page-turning start with the ill-fated execution attempt described in gripping detail, King runs out of steam. What's of interest is the horrifying botched execution and the fact, revealed late in the narrative, that Francis never denied committing the murder. While his eventual execution is tragic, this account doesn't add much to our understanding of U.S. race relations. 16 page b&w insert not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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In 1946 in the small town of St. Martinsville, Louisiana, 17-year-old Willie Francis was arrested for the murder of the town pharmacist. The town, located in the southwest region of the state, was a place like no other, said to have been cursed by a man hung in 1891 for a crime he did not commit. It was a town also famous for corruption and unequal justice, with black citizens such as Francis convicted and generally hung on the flimsiest of accusations. By the 1940s, the town was making use of the portable electric chair known as Gruesome Gertie. But on May 3, when Francis was scheduled to be electrocuted, the procedure failed, and the state scheduled a follow-up six days later. But a Cajun lawyer fresh from fighting World War II took Francis’ case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Drawing on extensive research and interviews, King offers a compelling page-turner that examines American racism and justice in the region featured in the book and movie Dead Man Walking. --Vanessa Bush
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The book doesn't dwell on Willie, largely because there isn't much information on him or his crime. Instead, it is a great portrait of justice in the deep south. The back-stories of the people involved bring great color to the book, and the author doesn't sensationalize the facts.
I downloaded the Kindle version and was happy to see the photo's and captions included.
Most recent customer reviews
COMMITTED IN A HEAVILY RACIST AREA AND HOW THE LAW DEALT WITH IT, OR TRIED TO.Read more
All of the glowing reviews are indeed well-deserved.Read more