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Summary of the Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow

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Near the beginning of The Autobiography of an Execution, David Dow lays his cards on the table. "People think that because I am against the death penalty and don't think people should be executed, that I forgive those people for what they did. Well, it isn't my place to forgive people, and if it were, I probably wouldn't. I'm a judgmental and not very forgiving guy

Just ask my wife."

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David R. Dow’s 2010 book The Autobiography of an Execution presents an enthralling true crime narrative in which the author takes the reader into the world of prisons, the complex minds of judges, execution-administration chambers, and the experiences of death row inmates. In doing so, Dow sheds light on an underexplored but important facet of society, providing insight into unexpected phenomena, such as the way even religious justices and lawyers can express deeply rooted support for the death penalty. In The Autobiography of an Execution, Dow makes explicit the high stakes surrounding each word and action when someone’s fate of life or death is being decided. Dow, who has represented more than one hundred death row inmates over twenty years, begins by highlighting some of the current trends surrounding the death penalty. Statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center reveal that support for the death penalty is declining and that 88 percent of presidents from the country’s top academic criminological societies do not believe it is an effective deterrent to murder. At the time the book was published, the number of death sentences was at its lowest since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The prominent American Law Institute developed the framework for the modern capital punishment system, but it recently abandoned the project due to “intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment.”

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Usually, it this spellbinding true crime narrative, Dow takes us inside of prisons, inside the complicated minds of judges, inside execution-administration chambers, into the lives of death row inmates (some shown to be innocent, others not) and even into his own home.

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