David R. Dow has had access to a world most of us will never experience. As a lawyer, he has represented over one hundred death-row cases. Many of his clients have died. Most were guilty. Some might have been innocent. The Autobiography of an Execution is his deeply personal story about justice, the death penalty, and a lawyer's life.
His life at paradoxical extremes: Witnessing executions and then coming home to the loving embrace of his wife and young son, who inqure about Dow's day. Waging moral battles on behalf of people who have committed abhorrent crimes. Fighting for life in America's death-penalty capital, within a criminal justice system full of indifferent and ineffectual judges. Racing against time on behalf of clients who have no more time.
Regardless of your views on the death penalty, Dow's writing will take you inside the issue in striking, intimate ways: through the complicated minds of judges, inside prisons and execution-administration chambers, and into his own home, where the toll of working on these gnarled and difficult cases is often paid. Ultimately, he shows us a world where suspense clings to every word and action, where human lives hang in the balance, and where doing the right thing is never as easy as it sounds.
Dow isn't doing high constitutional theory here; this is pure red meat. What Dow exposes in this dark, raw memoir is not just a dispassionate machinery of death that cannot be slowed, reversed or mediated by truth, logic or fact. He also exposes the inner life of a man who, in the face of all that, cannot give up the fight.