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

Northeastern University Press
2008 • 300 pp. 27 illus. 6 x 9"

$29.95 Hardcover, 978-1-55553-678-7

“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. The men, Lytle shows, were victims of false testimony and police coercion, among other ills of the justice system, and served up to 17 years in prison—much of it on death row. Michael Graham remained on death row for 14 years for the murder of an elderly couple before the key witness admitted fabricating her testimony. Madison Hobley, beaten and coerced into confessing to a deadly arson, spent 13 years on death row before he was pardoned. Randal Padgett, accused of raping and murdering his wife, was imprisoned for five and a half years-three and a half on death row—before he was granted a new trial and acquitted. 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.”—Publishers Weekly

The stories of five men unfairly condemned to death

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. Leslie Lytle confronts the human suffering behind these miscarriages of justice in her effort to reveal how and why they occurred. Drawing on extensive interviews and archival research, 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. Execution’s Doorstep is more than a gripping human-interest story. As Lytle shows, the criminal justice and capital punishment systems that we have established to protect us are fallible and subject to the same incompetencies, petty corruptions,and politicizations to which all human institutions are prone. As we relive these heart-rending 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?

You may read more about Execution's Doorstep at the author's website here.

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“There is power in this book. Execution’s Doorstep contains the power of voices belonging to those who have so greatly suffered and who have been so sinned against. It is the voices of people unjustly convicted. The wisdom of Leslie Lytle’s book is that she lets these voices speak. Too often, stories of injustice are tempered because they are told by people other than those who came within hours of being executed. Not in Execution’s Doorstep. In this book, it is those voices of the men who spent years on death row for crimes they never committed that ring clearest and truest.”—National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

“In less capable hands, the book might have degenerated into an extended pamphlet about the failings of the criminal justice system. Here, instead, is a heartfelt but clear-eyed testimony.”—Nashville Scene


“Wonder how it could be that 126 wrongly convicted people on death row have been exonerated? What's wrong with our court system? Here's a promise: if you accompany Ms. Lytle into these five stories you'll not only "get it,” you may be moved to join our efforts to change it.”—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking and Death of Innocents

“Damn, I wish I had written this book! Leslie Lytle has done a masterful job of drawing out her subjects in interviews, as Studs Terkel might have, and telling their stories in fast-paced narratives, as John Grisham might have."—Rob Warden, Executive Director, Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University School of Law

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LESLIE LYTLE has an M.A. from Antioch University and serves on the board of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, as a staff writer for the community newspaper Sewanee Mountain Messenger, and as editor of Local Action and Beyond, the journal of the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace. She was recently appointed the Center’s executive director.

Fri, 21 Sep 2012 08:30:26 -0500