Dead Run: The Untold Story of Dennis Stockton and America's Only Mass Escape from Death Row

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Times Books, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 299 pages
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Summers are always stifling in southern Virginia, and they're even hotter on the Mecklenburg Correctional Center's Death Row when Dennis Stockton arrives there in July 1983. Charged with murder for hire, Stockton insisted he was innocent, but his jury sentenced him to die. In prison, he begins keeping a diary and it soon becomes his lifeline, nurturing dreams of freedom and publication as an author.

Mecklenburg's officials had always prided themselves on running a secure prison, but that left them vulnerable to an ingenious escape conspiracy. Though indispensable in the plotting, Stockton decides not to run, betting instead on a new trial and exoneration. The escape of the "Mecklenburg Six" is dazzlingly suspenseful, as they take hostages, don guards' uniforms, and, staging a monumental bluff, make history with America's first mass escape from Death Row. Mean-while, Stockton notes it all in his journal.

After the escape, a Norfolk newspaper editor, William F. Burke, Jr., writes to the remaining inmates, seeking information on the unprecedented breakout. Stockton's diary becomes the most revealing account, and when excerpts are published, a scandalous portrait of Death Row emerges: bribed guards, marijuana plants, homebrew alcohol, weapon stashes, unlocked cell doors, and jailhouse sex. Overnight, Stockton becomes the most hated man in Virginia's prisons for his exposť. During the next eleven years, he survives plots against his life and endures subhuman conditions.

Throughout his ordeal he struggles to find his voice as a writer, while battling to gain a new trial and escape the "monster factory," his name for Death Row. As Stockton's scheduled execution nears, the case against him begins unraveling, leaving readers to ponder the true nature of justice.

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Dead run: the untold story of Dennis Stockton and America's only mass escape from death row

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Dennis Stockton spent much of his time on Death Row keeping a diary recounting not only his own daily activities but those of his fellow inmates and guards. Included in that diary were the details of ... Read full review

Contents

THE GREAT ESCAPE
1
Chapter Two
14
Chapter Three
39
Copyright

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About the author (1999)

Burke and Joe Jackson, a reporter colleague, investigate Stockton's persistent claims of innocence and discover that everything he has asserted checks out, from his version of the closing hours of a lonely country diner to his allegations of a secret prosecution deal with the witness whose testimony convicted him. They uncover a sinister underworld in Stockton's small town and fill in the frame that was hung around his neck. Employing Stockton's writings and their own deep research into the rural South and Death Row, the authors have produced a powerful book on a front-page social issue--wrongful conviction and execution--that reads like the most chilling suspense novel. Yet this is not fiction. Dead Run is a riveting, impeccably sourced prison drama about a condemned man whose fate readers will never forget.

Since 1980, when William F. Burke, Jr. (right), became an editor at The Virginian-Pilot, stories he's edited have received four Pulitzer Prize nominations. During Joe Jackson's tenure with The Virginian-Pilot, stories he reported were nominated for three Pulitzers and resulted in the acquittal of a man wrongly convicted of murder and the recantations of two witnesses whose testimony had sentenced men to death. They live with their families in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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