The life of a death penalty lawyer


Legal Hammeroriginally published by: New York Times
11th February 2010

Toward the beginning of “The Auto­biography of an Execution,” David Dow relaxes after a speech with the celebrated death penalty abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean. “It was the first time I went drinking with a nun.”

Prejean tells Dow, who has represented more than 100 death row inmates over 20 years, that “support for the death penalty is a mile wide, but just an inch deep.” Dow responds: “Well, Sister, I believe you can drown in an inch of water.” This book is Dow’s effort to drain the puddle.

Statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center show that the death penalty in America is dying. In 2009, the number of death sentences dropped for the seventh consecutive year; it’s now the lowest since the Supreme Court re­instated the death penalty in 1976. Eleven states considered abolishing the death penalty last year, citing high costs and lack of measurable benefits.

New Mexico just became the 15th state to abolish it. A recent study from Duke University concluded that North Carolina could save almost $11 million annually by doing away with capital punishment.

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