Book Title: “The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates”
Author: John Temple
Publisher: University of Mississippi Press
Bickerton-Law Rating: 4/4
Most criminal defense attorneys will attest that defendants can be wrongfully convicted for many reasons. These reasons can include faulty witness testimony, the failure of the court to recognize the defendant’s mental deficiencies, and ineffective assistance of counsel. For Levon “Bo” Jones, all three problems were present in his case.
In “The Last Lawyer,” John Temple tells the story of how Kenneth J. Rose and his team of attorneys from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation fought to get Bo Jones off of death row. Although many books about death row usually have a clear agenda, Temple gives a fair and politically neutral view of the realities of death row litigation.
While telling the story of Bo Jones and other death row inmates, Temple offers a chillingly accurate depiction of the countless hurdles criminal defense attorneys face while advocating for their clients. From over-zealous prosecutors to budgetary restraints, death row litigators are forced to cope with more than issues of innocence, guilt, and the morality of executing criminals.
Those outside of the criminal justice system are often unaware of the realities of criminal litigation. In “The Last Lawyer,” John Temple shines a light on the inadequacies that exist in the criminal justice system. Many assume that anyone who has a jury trial has automatically received a “fair trial,” Temple shows that this is often not the case. While reading the book, the reader is forced to ask himself: If a defendant’s attorney does not investigate the case or interview witnesses, can that attorney truly be an effective advocate? If the state’s case is supported solely by the words of an unreliable witness, is that truly enough to support a conviction, much less the death penalty? How accurate does the system need to be before taking a prisoner’s life? Ultimately, regardless of what side of the political spectrum you are on, it is impossible to come away from this book without questioning whether justice is truly served in death penalty cases.