Execution’s Doorstep:
True Stories of the Innocent and Near Damned

Leslie Lytle
Northeastern University Press, 2008
278 p.



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Table of Contents:

Glossary of Context-Specific Death-Penalty Terms

Ron Keine
Juan Roberto Melendez
Michael Ray Graham, Jr.
Madison Hobley
Randal Padgett

Appendix: States Paying Restitution for Wrongful Convictions in Capital Cases
Notes / Index

Permanent URL: hdl.handle.net/2047/D20213367


Execution’s Doorstep tells the true stories of five lives trapped in a living nightmare: sentenced to die for a crime they didn’t commit. Since capital punishment was reinstated in the mid-1970s, over 120 individuals have been proven wholly innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced to death. But this statistic, as horrifying as it is, does not begin to tell the whole story.

Through extensive interviews and archival research Leslie Lytle reveals the true human suffering behind these miscarriages of justice in an effort to understand how they could have occurred. Lytle guides the reader through the fateful crimes, the arrests, the trials, the incarcerations, the struggles to prove innocence, and the difficult readjustments to life in the free world.

But Execution’s Doorstep is more than a gripping human-interest story. Contrary to popular expectations, not one of the five men featured was exonerated by DNA evidence. Rather, as Lytle shows, the criminal justice and capital punishment systems that we have established in our names are fallible-subject to the same incompetencies, petty corruptions, and politicizations to which all human institutions are prone. As we relive these chilling stories of innocents damned, this book poses a simple question: can we trust the life and death of any man to a system run by men?


>> Death Penalty Information Center: “Leslie Lytle provides a compelling narrative recounting the harrowing journeys of five innocent men who spent many years on death row. Through extensive research and interviews, Lytle has succeeded in revealing the deep pain and suffering that such injustice yields, putting a human face to the recurring problem of innocence on death row. The book explores all aspects of the cases, from the crime and the trials to the time spent on death row and the difficult struggle to adjust to life outside of a maximum security prison. Through the stories of these five men, Lytle provides readers with a penetrating look at America’s criminal justice and capital punishment systems, showing their fallibility.”

>> H-Law: “Between 1976 and 2008 124 death row candidates were freed on grounds of their innocence. Only a handful have regained their emotional bearings. Many of them suffered or still suffer from nervous breakdowns, chronic depression, abusive family relations, fits of anger, and alcohol and drug addictions. Some turn to crime, renewing old habits and contacts with lawless associates. They might need the wherewithal to satisfy an addiction or simply to pay grocery bills and rent when unemployed. A few give up on life itself and kill themselves. Nothing can restore the wasted and meaningless years, the isolation from family and old friends, the missed opportunity for work and advancement, the virtual absence of comforting events. Lytle’s book handsomely conveys insights into many of these haunting factors.”

>> Publisher’s Weekly: “Journalist Lytle brings the capital punishment debate into sharp focus with her account of five men wrongly convicted and sentenced to death but later freed….Drawing on court documents and extensive interviews with the death row survivors, Lytle shines light on the often-overlooked hardships these men face in returning to society after spending years in a six-by-nine-foot cell.”