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Synopsis: Sr Helen Prejean has accompanied five men to execution since she began her work in 1982. She believes the last two, Dobie Williams in Louisiana and Joseph O'Dell in Virginia, were innocent, but their juries were blocked from seeing all the evidence and their defence teams were incompetent. 'The readers of this book will be the first "jury" with access to all the evidence the trail juries never saw', she says. The Death of Innocents shows how race, prosecutorial ambition, poverty and publicity determine who dies and who lives. Prejean raises profound constitutional questions about the legality of the death penalty. CANTERBURY PRESS £12.99

Review: Reads rather like a novel, a courtroom drama. Sister Prejean has a way with words, and her arguments against the death penalty are compelling and extremely readable. No one can question her sincerity and her commitment to the questioning of the death sentence, and this is a savage indictment of the American legal system in states favouring capital punishment, with evidence withheld, incompetent defence lawyers, corrupt police departments - this is the sort of material that makes successful movies. I found this highly-charged, very readable and a "just stop and think" cry for an urgent overhaul of the law. I have mixed feelings about the death sentence. As a deterrent in an increasingly violent society, it is extremely attractive to me. One wonders how one would feel if one were the sentencing judge, and it came to light months or even years afterwards that the evidence was bad, and the man was innocent.

Sister Prejean leaves no argument unstated. She cites the fact that in many US states, the prosecuting attorneys often secure a death sentence based on the premise that these are bad man anyway, and the law, having failed to convict them for previous crimes, now has the opportunity to rid society of them forever. In both cases, the convicted men are put to death by intravenous injection - having read and watched Stephen King's THE GREEN MILE, it's some small comfort to know that the subjects of this book did not suffer, but slipped quietly away.

Prejean's gathering of evidence is not overwhelming proof of Williams' and O'Dell's innocence, but it does support the claims for retrials and re-examination of evidence that was either not presented or else withheld in the first place. For anyone in two minds about the legitimacy of the death penalty, I doubt this will help, but as a piece of literature on a subject that rears its head every time an innocent child is brutally murdered, it's both compelling and highly enjoyable. Thoroughly recommended.

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Gateway is published by Paul Edmund Norman on the first day of each month. Hosting is by Flying Porcupine at - and web design by Gateway. Submitting to Gateway: Basically, all you need do is e-mail it along and I'll consider it - it can be any length, if it's very long I'll serialise it, if it's medium-length I'll put it in as a novella, if it's a short story or a feature article it will go in as it comes. Payment is zero, I'm afraid, as I don't make any money from Gateway, I do it all for fun! For Advertising rates in Gateway please contact me at Should you be kind enough to want to send me books to review, please contact me by e-mail and I will gladly forward you my home address. Meanwhile, here's how to contact me: Gateway banner created by and © Paul Edmund Norman

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