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The Death of Innocents


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About the Author

Sister Helen Prejean travels extensively, giving, on average, 140 lectures a year, seeking to ignite public discourse on the death penalty. She has appeared on ABC's World News Tonight, 60 Minutes, Oprah, NPR, and an NBC special series on capital punishment. She is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille and lives in Louisiana.


Sister Prejean jetted into the spotlight when her first book, Dead Man Walking, a spiritual polemic against capital punishment, was made into an award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. This follow-up also relates her connection with two condemned men, but whereas the men in the first book were undeniably guilty, these individuals, she believes, were innocent of the crimes for which they were executed. Early on, Prejean recounts the early lives and crimes of Dobie Gillis Williams and Joseph O'Dell with the force of a full-blown writer. Her description of O'Dell's preparation for his execution strikes to the bone with its poignant details. Later, when she learns that Louisiana has passed a statute forbidding the execution of the mentally retarded a year too late to save Williams, she unforgettably describes writing his name in the sand on a beach in the Gulf of Mexico and challenging Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to see it. This same justice-whom she names "The Machinery of Death"-is the focus of the second third of the book; the final section is about her own life and her antideath penalty advocacy. Whatever one's views on capital punishment, this book provides food for thought. Highly recommended.-Frances Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (On sale Dec. 28) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Luminous, undecorated, angry and very moving. . . . [It] tests our conception of human decency." -The New York Times Book Review"A work of great persuasive power. It will also, I hope, become a source of outrage." -Christopher Hitchens, Los Angeles Times Book Review"Impassioned yet thoughtful. . . . Certain to promote reflection. . . . Prejean commands respect." -The Christian Science Monitor"A stunning work of conscience, told with restrained outrage, a sharp eye for the absurd, and an unshakeable belief in the dignity of all humans." -The San Diego Union-Tribune

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