Book Review – Back from the Dead: One Woman's Search for the Men Who Walked off America's Death Row

As a ‘Moderate Conservative’, my interest in this book was initially based only on two factors 1) the author was a native San Antonian and 2) the statistical analysis approach appealed to the math major in me.

With that said, I can now say I have rarely read a book that caused me to examine my own deeply held beliefs, prejudices and opinions so honestly. Much like the authors mother, I have allways subscribed to the concept of ‘an eye for an eye’ and have believed in the good ‘ol Texas version of justice.

Mrs. Cheever very carefully and very methodically tracked down, researched and interviewed men that our justice system said should now be dead. She very candidly discusses those that the justice system may have been right about (those that continued to kill and commit crimes). But she also takes us into the homes and lives of men who were in fact ‘rehabilitated’ and lived (and still live) productive, law-abiding and loving lives. However, she does not glamorize those men, nor does she excuse the crimes they committed. At all times, she keeps the reader aware of the innocent lives that were lost and the family’s that still deal with the grief of those losses.

She raises the very valid question -can those sentenced to death as ‘no hope for rehabilitation’ actually be rehabilitated? While the justice system and arm-chair psychiatrists have strong opinions – Mrs. Cheever has used actual facts to unquestionably prove that ‘Yes’ it can be done and has been done.

Due to a brief stay of execution afforded these men – the world has the opportunity to see what became of their lives – lives that should not have continued based on the death sentence they received for their crimes.

After finishing the book, I cannot honestly say that I am yet opposed to the death penalty as a set-in-stone rule. However, I can say that I was immensely moved by both her passion, her words and her research. I can also say that I am glad that those men who were ‘rehabilitated’ were able to live their lives giving back to the communities, schools and church’s that believed in them.

The American Public has been given a great book to explore complex and painful ideas – I only hope that we take the opportunity to learn what lessons lie in it.

Katrina D. Mukherjee (San Antonio, Texas USA)

About the Author

Hooman Hedayati

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