Books part. 2 : Death row’s memoir and experiences

Truth Be Told: Life Lessons From Death Row

Features correspondence between Agnes Vadas and Richard Nields, who is on death row in Ohio. The book contains letters exchanged between the two over six years. They discuss a wide range of topics, including life on death row, how they have coped with challenges in life, and the lessons they have learned from hardship. Agnes Vadas is a musician and human rights activist from Washington. (AuthorHouse, 2005).

Waiting to Die: Life on Death Row by Richard M. Rossi

Provides a first-hand account of his daily life on Arizona’s death row. Rossi was sentenced to death in 1983 and has taken responsibility for the murder he committed. He was originally offered a plea bargain with a life sentence, but he decided to go to trial. He has been on death row for 20 years. In his book, Rossi details how prisoners survive on death row, the conditions under which they live, and the psychological toll that living under a sentence of death takes on prisoners. He also provides a straightforward account of prison policies regulating all aspects of daily life. (Vision Paperbacks, 2004)

Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin

Junkin recounts the events that led first to the conviction and death sentence, and then to the freeing of Kirk Bloodsworth for the murder of a nine-year-old girl in Maryland. Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking describes the book as “Chilling, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring.” Scott Turow says: “Bloodsworth is a tale of courage and determination in the face of the law’s worst nightmare–the execution of an innocent man.” Senator Patrick Leahy calls Bloodsworth “a powerful indictment of the a death penalty system that is fundamentally broken.” (Algonquin Books, 2004).

Still Surviving by Nanon Williams

In his book Still Surviving, Nanon Williams , who was 17 at the time of the crime that placed him on death row, provides a first hand account of living under a sentence of death in Texas. The book details Williams’s journey from teenage boy to adulthood while living in the shadow of the nation’s busiest execution chamber. His text introduces readers to the experiences of solitary confinement and having friends executed, as well as to maintaining relationships with those on the other side of the prison gate. (Breakout Publishing Co., 2003)- Case Profile

Killing TimeKilling Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal by Dave Lindorff

Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamalauthored by Dave Lindorff, examines Abu-Jamal’s capital conviction. It also includes an opening insert about his Batson claim that black jurors were purposefully excluded from the jury that sent him to death row. (Common Courage Press, 2003)

Life on Death Row by Robert W. Murray

A first-person account of living under a death sentence in Arizona, the book explores how inmates cope with execution warrants, lethal injection, prison politics, and day-to-day life in a supermax prison facility


Poetic Justice: Reflections on the Big House, the Death House and the American Way of Justice by Professor Robert Johnson

Johnson’s first collection of poems about prison and capital punishment, exploring the day-to-day life of prisoners and examines the emotional impact of serving time on death row. Johnson, a professor of justice, law and society at American University, is an award-winning author of several social science books on crime and punishment and has won the Outstanding Book Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. (Northwoods Press, 2003)

Kiss of Death: America’s Love Affair with the Death Penalty by John Bessler

Attorney John Bessler presents arguments against capital punishment based on his work as a pro bono attorney for death row inmates in Texas. Woven into Bessler’s personal account is an examination of U.S. capital punishment practices in contrast to the absence of the death penalty in other nations. The book also addresses the toll executions take on those who participate in the process. (Northeastern University Press, 2003)

The Execution of a Serial Killer: One Man’s Experience Witnessing the Death Penalty by Dr. Joseph Diaz, Ph.D.

The Execution of a Serial Killer: One Man’s Experience Witnessing the Death Penalty  details the experiences of author Dr. Joseph Diaz, Ph.D., a criminologist who witnessed the execution of Florida death row inmate Edward Castro in December, 2000. In the book, Diaz explores not only Castro’s criminality, but also Diaz’s own reservations about executions. The book challenges readers to ask themselves if they, too, could witness an execution. (Poncha Press, 2002)

Within These Walls: Memoirs of a Death House Chaplain by Rev. Carroll Pickett

Pickett recalls his 15 years as chaplain to death row inmates in Huntsville, Texas, and provides an account of ministering to 95 men in their final hours before execution. Rev. Pickett examines the death penalty based on his professional and personal experiences in Texas. “Like so many Texans, I was raised in an atmosphere that insisted the only real justice was that which claimed an eye for an eye. I was wrong,” he said. “As I participated in the endless process that would earn my state infamous recognition for its death penalty stance, I found myself wondering just what we were accomplishing.” (St. Martin’s Press, 2002)

A Life in the Balance: The Billy Wayne Sinclair Story by Jodie and Billy Wayne Sinclair

A powerful, graphic and disturbing prison memoir from a former death row inmate who has spent 35 years in Louisiana’s prison system. This book exposes the arbitrariness and violence of extreme punishment, and yet also tells the story of a person’s ability to change. (Arcade Publishing 2001)

A Dream of the Tattered Man: Stories From Georgia’s Death Row by Randolph Loney

In this book, Loney writes about the impact that his 15 years as pastor, family liaison and witness to the executions of the condemned men on Georgia’s death row has had on him. In each of the chapters, Loney reveals the lessons he has learned from these men and expresses his refusal to dismiss them as people beyond redemption. (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001)

Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House by Scott Christianson

Based on archival materials from New York’s legendary prison, includes photos of inmates and documents of their last months at Sing Sing’s death house. Anthony Amsterdam, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, calls the book “A haunting experience. Combining the clinical virtuosity of an exhumation with the fascination of an archeological dig, it delivers a powerful intellectual message about the death penalty.” (News Release, 12/20/99) (New York University Press, 2000)

Finding Life on Death Row: Profiles of Six Inmates by Katya Lezin

A new book offers profiles of six convicted murders, two of whom have been executed. The profiles provide insight into the lives, crimes, and families of six men and women on death row. Lezin shows how an array of factors can lead people to commit capital crimes and how their poor treatment within our justice system leads them to death row. The cases profiled reveal how the inherently flawed death penalty is most often imposed not on the worst criminals, but on those who are most vulnerable and least able to defend themselves in our criminal justice system. (Northeastern University Press, 1999)

Death Work: A Study of the Modern Execution Process by Prof. Robert Johnson

This superb book takes the reader inside the execution process and accurately conveys the significance of state killing. The chapters on the history of the death penalty are among the most-detailed sources available and help crystallize the motivations behind the use of the death penalty.  American University, (2d edition)

Live From Death Row by Mumia Abu Jamal

Plough Publishing

One comment

  1. Hello,

    I am writing in response to the post about Nanon Williams. His book “Still Surviving” is currently in production to be re-released in January 2013. He now has an updated website where people may learn more about his message, his case as well as his books. He is currently writing his fourth book. The book trailer video can be viewed from his website.

    Thank you for sharing his story.
    Robyn Short, publisher
    goodmedia press

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