|About the Book|
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 defenseMoreLegal 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.