David Dow has spent his life representing over one hundred death row inmates in the state of Texas. His book is a collection of his thoughts about various cases and his own life and career. The Autobiography of an Execution was also awarded the Barnes and Nobles' Discover New Books Non-Fiction award just a few short weeks ago. At that point, I was already reading this book on the treadmill, already aware of how well written and engrossing this book is.
Dow has spent his career in law, helping death row inmates. His wife Katya and their son Lincoln help keep Dow from becoming unable to think only about his clients. While one case winds down, or one client is put to death, another case crops up with a client in need of Dow's attention. Dow admits to thinking about different careers, yet always returns to his current job, knowing it is necessary for him to feel as though he is making a difference. The time that his job demands is great and he often feels as though he is letting his son down. Yet, he also has a great need to continue his work. Through Dow's book it becomes obvious that there are many things about death row that I had not known, and many ways in which our system is unfair. While it is Dow's job to defend these criminals, it seems that truly getting them out of prison is a rarity. Dow might be able to delay their execution. Proving their innocence is almost impossible. While there are inmates who have committed the crime they are there for, there are others Dow believes are likely innocent. Yet, based on various technicalities and laws, it is nearly impossible to give these men a chance at proving their innocence. Dow does not argue for or against the death penalty. As a defense attorney for those on death row, it is possible that he is against corporal punishment. And yet, Dow acknowledges the true evil in some of the prisoners he has come in contact with. Within The Autobiography of an Execution, Dow shares information about some men has has represented who have touched him. It is easy to see how this job could easily become all consuming.
Certainly this book is written from a unique perpective. I ended up finishing this one, taking it with me from my treadmill after a run one day. While I enjoyed reading this one while running, I enjoyed it even more when I could sit and read it in larger chunks. With just short runs I was finding it difficult to remember various prisoners' names and keep their stories straight. By reading this for a longer span of time, I felt as though I was better able to know these people Dow chose to write about and what brought them to prison and into his life.