Dead Wrong: A Death Row Lawyer Speaks Out Against Capital Punishment

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Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1997 - Law - 393 pages
4 Reviews
After fourteen years as a death row lawyer in Florida, Michael Mello has seen enough. Dead Wrong is a candid and compelling account of his decision to withdraw from "the machinery of death" - the American capital punishment system. Telling stories of cases he worked on - including those of confessed serial killer Ted Bundy and of "Crazy Joe" Spaziano, wrongly convicted but still on death row after twenty years - Mello provides an inside view of death row lawyering as no one has done before. He describes how he and others fought to make the post-conviction system work, ensuring inmates the right to a fair appeal. Alternately impassioned, angry, and haunted by the victims, crimes, and criminals, Mello draws us into the legal maze of appeals, death warrants, stays of execution, and executions. Though Mello is unflinching in his recognition of the brutal realities of capital crimes, his book is a powerful indictment of the death penalty enterprise in America. He is appalled at the lack of vigilance in a system that routinely punishes guilty and innocent alike. And, practicing in Florida, he saw the state's death penalty cost to taxpayers rise to an estimated average $3.2 million per execution - six times the average cost of life imprisonment.

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DEAD WRONG: A Death Row Lawyer Speaks Out Against Capital Punishment

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In a season busy with books about the death penalty, here is an idiosyncratic, almost experimental, but authoritative personal critique of the nation's system of capital punishment. Mello is a former ... Read full review

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I am Mark Menser and there are serious errors about me in Mello's book. Furthermore, I spoke with Mr. Mello and thought the representations would be corrected, but apparently they were not. The one I will address involves Ted Bundy and the first of 2 appeals in the 11th Circuit. Bundy had 2 different death warrants, one for the Chi Omega murders and the second for the Kimberly Leach murder. The Florida Attorney General had two attorney teams (one for each warrant). The first team was the Chi Omega team and the attorneys were Greg Costas and Andrea Hillyer. The second team was the Leach case and consisted of myself, Gary Printy and John Koenig.
The first team was theteam that appeared before Judge Zloch, who ruled against Bundy without a hearing. THAT team is the team that was in the 11th Circuit , and the attorney lambasted (wrongly) by the panel was Greg Costas. Greg was the attorney who was "speechless" etc. Not me. My case had a full 2254 hearing before Judge Sharp, and we had a very orderly appeal with no issues in the 11th Circuit. Mr. Mello and I clashed frequently back in the day, but his writing places me in the wrong case in the wrong court.


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About the author (1997)

Michael A. Mello formerly worked full time as a capital public defender in Florida and is now professor of law at Vermont Law School. He is the author of Against the Death Penalty: The Relentless Dissents of Justices Brennan and Marshall.

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