Cover image for Deathwork : defending the condemned
Title:
Deathwork : defending the condemned
Author:
Mello, Michael.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
xxxix, 295 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
Contents:
The law's machinery of death -- Death clerk -- The aging hit man : Anthony Antone -- Executing the insane : Alvin Ford -- The electric chair : Bob Sullivan -- Racism : James Adams and James Dupree Henry -- Executing juveniles : Paul Magill -- The poet : Stephen Todd Booker -- The landmark case : Jim Hitchcock -- My roommate : Joseph Green Brown -- The innocent man : Bennie Demps -- Missing in action : David Funchess -- Poorhouse justice : David Washington -- Killed by a legal technicality : Ronald Straight.
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780816640874

9780816640881
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Legal cases are stories, and some of the most compelling -- and the most disturbing -- are those that take place on death row: the innocent man executed, juveniles and the mentally ill condemned to die, a smoking electric chair, a napping defense attorney, a senile hit man. These are the stories in which Michael Mello, as a capital public defender, played a crucial role, and they are the cases that make up Deathwork, a moment-by-moment, behind-the-scenes look at the life and work of a death row lawyer and his clients.

Part memoir, part legal casebook, Deathwork offers a gritty, often anguishing picture of what Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun called the American legal "machinery of death." The stories Mello tells raise questions about legal issues -- from prosecutorial misconduct to the racial inequities of sentencing, from the rules of evidence to the rights of the mentally ill -- that here take on a life-and-death urgency. They describe in detail how constitutional issues are raised postconviction, and how those issues are adjudicated by the courts and in accordance with bizarre claims of objectivity. And they show, with a painful immediacy and authenticity, what it is like to live and work under an impending death sentence, the adrenaline rush of the stay or unexpected success, the inconsolable sadness upon the execution of the sick, the afflicted, the innocent.

As DNA reversals, last-minute confessions, and revelations of corruption are bringing capital punishment to the forefront of public debate nationwide, this firsthand account of the legalities and realities of the death penalty is as relevant as it is enthralling, as edifying as it is impossible to ignore.


Summary

Legal cases are stories, and some of the most compelling -- and the most disturbing -- are those that take place on death row: the innocent man executed, juveniles and the mentally ill condemned to die, a smoking electric chair, a napping defense attorney, a senile hit man. These are the stories in which Michael Mello, as a capital public defender, played a crucial role, and they are the cases that make up Deathwork, a moment-by-moment, behind-the-scenes look at the life and work of a death row lawyer and his clients.

Part memoir, part legal casebook, Deathwork offers a gritty, often anguishing picture of what Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun called the American legal "machinery of death." The stories Mello tells raise questions about legal issues -- from prosecutorial misconduct to the racial inequities of sentencing, from the rules of evidence to the rights of the mentally ill -- that here take on a life-and-death urgency. They describe in detail how constitutional issues are raised postconviction, and how those issues are adjudicated by the courts and in accordance with bizarre claims of objectivity. And they show, with a painful immediacy and authenticity, what it is like to live and work under an impending death sentence, the adrenaline rush of the stay or unexpected success, the inconsolable sadness upon the execution of the sick, the afflicted, the innocent.

As DNA reversals, last-minute confessions, and revelations of corruption are bringing capital punishment to the forefront of public debate nationwide, this firsthand account of the legalities and realities of the death penalty is as relevant as it is enthralling, as edifying as it is impossible to ignore.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

Some of those who oppose the death penalty cite its inhumanity or its failure to deter. Others oppose it because they believe that the death penalty discriminates against the poor and racial minorities. And still others believe that its administration is fraught with mistake and caprice. Mello (law, Univ. of Vermont), a former death penalty defense attorney, takes yet another approach. His stories of the lives and deaths of his clients undermine the law's truth--its majesty, its certainty, its justice; they reveal the practice of capital charging, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing to be a tawdry process in which life and death decisions are made with frightening casualness and callousness. The accounts depict a carnival of the grotesque: confusion, carelessness, pettiness, mistakes, misrepresentation, stupidity. There is no majesty in this law. If Mello were writing about traffic courts or misdemeanor courts, one might reluctantly conclude that such casualness and confusion is deplorable but nevertheless understandable in light of the vast numbers and low stakes involved. But finding barely a semblance of law's majesty where issues of life and death are at stake is disturbing. The author forces readers to confront this truth. His book should be read by everyone interested in capital punishment. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. M. M. Feeley University of California, Berkeley


Choice Review

Some of those who oppose the death penalty cite its inhumanity or its failure to deter. Others oppose it because they believe that the death penalty discriminates against the poor and racial minorities. And still others believe that its administration is fraught with mistake and caprice. Mello (law, Univ. of Vermont), a former death penalty defense attorney, takes yet another approach. His stories of the lives and deaths of his clients undermine the law's truth--its majesty, its certainty, its justice; they reveal the practice of capital charging, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing to be a tawdry process in which life and death decisions are made with frightening casualness and callousness. The accounts depict a carnival of the grotesque: confusion, carelessness, pettiness, mistakes, misrepresentation, stupidity. There is no majesty in this law. If Mello were writing about traffic courts or misdemeanor courts, one might reluctantly conclude that such casualness and confusion is deplorable but nevertheless understandable in light of the vast numbers and low stakes involved. But finding barely a semblance of law's majesty where issues of life and death are at stake is disturbing. The author forces readers to confront this truth. His book should be read by everyone interested in capital punishment. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. M. M. Feeley University of California, Berkeley