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May God Have Mercy: A True Story of Crime and Punishment Paperback – August 10, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On the evening of March 10, 1981, 19-year-old Wanda Fay McCoy, her head nearly severed from her body, bled to death on her bedroom floor. The small-town police who investigated the case quickly narrowed their focus on her brother-in-law, Roger Coleman. Their suspicions made sense: Wanda had been raped; Roger had once served time for sexual assault. The facts, at least superficially, all pointed to him as the killer. As the story unravels, though, the case seems less cut-and-dried, and the police's decision to focus so much of their energies on Coleman seems more and more a travesty. Yet, despite growing evidence of his innocence, Coleman was quickly tried, found guilty, and condemned to die. May God Have Mercy documents his long battle with the legal system and the ongoing efforts of his lawyers, as well as the media and numerous private citizens, to prove his innocence. John C. Tucker has written a chilling condemnation of politics as usual that is bound to challenge the assumptions of anyone who believes that the American justice system is concerned primarily with justice. Coleman's story is compelling, disturbing, and overwhelmingly frustrating. Even if you remember the case from its media coverage, you'll be shocked and horrified at this story and at the lack of concern, common sense, and basic humanity the American legal system can possess. --Lisa Higgins

From Library Journal

At one time a leading criminal defense attorney, Tucker here investigates the 1992 execution of Roger Coleman, convicted of murder despite shaky evidence.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (August 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385332947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385332941
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Yes, this book is excellent journalism, well written, and a haunting look at life on Death Row and the "death industry" of lawyers, appeals, prisons, and so on. However, I do have one serious problem with Tucker's narrative: Why, at no point, was he even willing to consider the possibility that Coleman might have been guilty? While the evidence didn't damn Coleman, it certainly didn't exclude him either. By Tucker's own account, Coleman refused to take a blood test that could have exonerated him for quite awhile (he apparently feared that authorities would "frame" him); once performed, the test could not rule Coleman out; and he did not take a lie-detector test until the day of his execution, which he failed. Tucker also shrugs off Coleman's earlier conviction on a sex crime as a case of mistaken identity. but offers no real proof.
In his attempt to portray Coleman innocent, Tucker missed the opportunity to create a truly balanced portrait of crime and punishment in America. Much better is "Dead Run," the story of Dennis Stockton and the mass Death Row escape.
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Format: Paperback
When I first read this book back in 2000, I was persuaded and moved. Re-reading the work in its entirety, knowing that Coleman was guilty, is still an eye-opener. . . but this time in Tucker's errors of reasoning. The story is so well-crafted that we didn't notice, or chose to ignore, the signs that we were being led astray. Count me among the suckers, but now one can see Tucker's classic intellectual sins that accompany any time a political agenda clouds one's judgement of facts. First, denigrate or ignore the contrary evidence. Second, obsess on the supportive evidence, even if it's less reliable and relevant than the contrary evidence. Third, editorialize about the motives and competence of prosecutors, investigators, judges, and anyone else who disagrees. And so on reflection, notwithstanding Tucker's flair for storytelling, this is just another bad book.
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Format: Hardcover
Even though this book is nicely written, easy to follow, and quite intriguing, it has now been proven both out of date and wrong. The man accussed of murder, Roger Coleman, was conclusively proven guilty just recently, using DNA tests, which did not exist back when the murder happened, nor when this book was written. Unfortunately the author clearly thinks that Coleman is innocent, because the evidence appeared weak. So you will probably only enjoy this book if you are interested in a case where a man was executed on what looked like weak evidence.
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Format: Paperback
I first read "May God have mercy" 4 yrs back, and despite having no position on the death penalty, found it a compelling and harrowing read.

At that point I thought that Coleman was probably guilty and yet I believed that his guilt was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt in the original trial. However, midway through the book, the first DNA test provided very strong evidence of Coleman's guilt. I also found it hard to believe that Coleman was this baby faced innocent and was just unfortunate to be wrongly accused 3 times of sex crimes (the original rape, the incident in the library, and the murder/rape).

Clearly Coleman was a heavily manipulative guy who was able to take in a number of people, including the author. Yet, they should all have realized after the original DNA test that the evidence was now very strong. The counterclaims sometimes were not just "she said he said" but more like "he said that she said that he said that he had killed Wanda McCoy).

Some of the slightly puzzling points in the original trial -- the man who alibi'd Coleman remain puzzling (although the author didn't comment on how reliable that witness was), as well as some of the other evidence relating to entry.

James McCloskey's recent statement about accepting the truth and his personal anguish about having been deceived is notable. Its a shame that this decent and honorable man was fooled by a murderous rapist into wasting his time and energy. He is a victim of Coleman as much as anyone else.

Despite the author's bias, I still give the book 3 stars. May God have mercy -- on poor Wanda McCoy.
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Format: Paperback
John Tucker brought up some good points about the weaknesses in the case against Roger Coleman, but that does not take away from the fact that it was painfully obvious at the time that he was executed in 1992 that Coleman was guilty of killing Wanda McCoy, the conclusive DNA test in January 2006 showing Coleman's guilt notwithstanding. Tucker, like most lawyers tend to do, lost sight of the kind of person he was dealing with and instead focused on "selling the product," which was the notion that Coleman might be innocent.

The evidence at the McCoy house tied Coleman to the crime scene. The more evidence that Coleman's lawyers received that Coleman was guilty, the more they tried to pin the killing on someone else. They did not want to understand Coleman as a person. Before the McCoy killing, Coleman was just another cowardly, would-be rapist. However, Coleman learned his lesson in April of 1977 when he used subterfuge to gain entrance to Brenda Rife's house, got Brenda to tape her young daughter to a chair, and then unsucessfully attempted to rape Brenda. He had to flee because he could not control the situation. He was later found guilty by a jury and sentenced to three years in prison. He was paroled after spending 20 months and one day in prison. Even so, with all that time in prison, he was able to think about how to become a better rapist and hit on a valuable lesson in his criminal evolution: during the next sexual assault, he wasn't going to leave any witnesses lest he spend even more time in prison. That is why he killed Wanda McCoy in a violent attack in March of 1981.

The evidence was not, as Jennifer Lunsford claims in her December 7, 2007 review, grossly inadequate to convict Coleman. The only question seemed to be whether Coleman acted alone or with somebody else.
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