About a month ago, I finished an incredible book that has really opened my eyes to the crucial need to reform the criminal justice system in this country. While the books I read tend to be light-hearted, humorous, and self-help oriented, this book casts a light on a serious topic that demands more attention. I’m excited to present it to you!
Written by a lawyer named Brian W. Stolarz, the book speaks about Stolarz’s experience as a lawyer for an innocent man sentenced to death row. He explains the details of the crime, the case, and exposes the corruption within the justice system. My dad happened to see him speak and bought his book for me. He even got it signed for me (thanks dad 🙂 )!
None of what I can say in this post can give enough enthusiasm that I have for you to read this book. Neither can I also impart the amount of shocking facts and wisdom that lies within. The criminal justice system is such a complex issue that requires a great understanding of the system, its treatment, and its history. It’s a topic that I cannot sufficiently explain in a post; thus, I encourage you to investigate this topic more extensively. I highly recommend watching the Netflix documentary 13th. It’s by far one of the best documentaries about this subject that I’ve ever watched, and I have cited this film in many school research papers.
None of what I can say in this post can give enough enthusiasm that I have for you to read this book. Neither can I also impart the amount of shocking facts and wisdom that lies within.
Therefore, instead of trying convey the important story of an innocent man wrongfully sentenced to death row and the painful years it took for lawyers to get him exonerated, I will highlight a few of my favorite quotes and parts of the book.
*A little by the way, you’ll see parenthesis ( ) after every quote from the book. I’m just citing the page number where I found it.
The injustice illuminated
The author elaborates on the unequal treatment and pay that exists between prosecutors and public defendants. Prosecutors are not only paid more than public defenders but also have more time to work on cases. Public defenders tend to have more cases open and a lot less time to dedicate to each one.
Stolarz notes, “So the lawyers who were trying to put folks in jail were getting paid in full, and the ones who defend the rights of the accused were forced to take unpaid holidays. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a former prosecutor herself, noted in a recent Supreme Court opinion that, ‘in the end, states are always strapped,’ but even when they are broke they always find ways to ‘pay the prosecutor'” (51).
Prosecutors have a greater advantage in the system, making it easier for them to jail and/or charge people. This becomes strikingly clear throughout the book’s story of Dewayne, the innocent man accused of killing a police officer at the scene of a crime he was not present at.
I highlighted this quote mentioned by Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun: “From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death” (189). That phrase has stuck with me; while the author speaks about his story, he also mentions the need to abolish the death penalty.
Stolarz mentions in an earlier part of the book: “According to a 2014 study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an estimated 4 percent of all inmates who have been scheduled to die are in fact innocent” (5). This is a shockingly large number and challenges the existence of such a penalty.
Definitely go check out this book (click on the link to find it on Amazon)! It was one of the best books I’ve read, and it vividly portrays the inequalities of the criminal system, unraveling a remarkable and painstakingly true story.
Have an incredible week, and I look forward to talking with you all soon!
Quote of the post:
“The law is a system that protects everybody who can afford to hire a good lawyer.” -Mark Twain
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2 thoughts on “New Read: Grace and Justice on Death Row”
Victoria, how fantastic it is that you have brought this very important issue to the fore in your blog! I can’t wait to read the book. You may also enjoy reading “The New Jim Crow” which is a book about how the justice system reinforces inequality for people of color. I so admire you and your stand for justice. With love, Lois
Hi Lois! Thank you so much for this comment. I apologize for getting back so late! I will definitely check out that book you recommended. Thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot. Have a great day!!