In January 1982, an elderly white widow was murdered in the small town of Greenwood, South Carolina. Police immediately arrested Edward Lee Elmore, a poor, mentally challenged black man with no previous felony record. Barely ninety days after the victim's body was found, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. The case has all the issues that mark the debate about the death penalty -- race, mental retardation, "snitch" testimony, DNA-testing, a strong claim of innocence, bad defense lawyers, and prosecutorial misconduct writ large. The book also tells the inspirational story of a lawyer, Diana Holt, who fought to save Elmore's life. Reviewing the book for The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen called it "the book of the century about the death penalty." Publishers Weekly described it as a "lucid, page-turning account" and "not only a gripping human story but a first-rate introduction to the more problematic aspects of American criminal law."
Bonner examines Elmore's defense through three jury trials and many complex legal proceedings. He also explores the moral and legal issues in a case that has been in the courts for three decades.
Raymond Bonner earned a law degree from Stanford in 1967 and practiced before teaching law at UC Davis and founding the Public Interest Clearinghouse at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. Later, he became an investigative reporter and foreign correspondent for The New York Times and received numerous awards and honors, including the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism, from the Nieman Foundation Fellows, in 1996. He was a member of the Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for articles about the sale of American technology to China. He has also been a staff writer at The New Yorker and has written for The New York Review of Books. His first book, Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador, received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; his second, Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy, received the Overseas Press Club and Sidney Hillman book awards. He now lives in London.
Mark Danner, Chancellor's Professor of Journalism, Politics and English at the University of California at Berkeley, has written for more than two decades on foreign affairs and international conflict. He has covered Central America, Haiti, Balkans and Iraq, among many other stories, and has written extensively about the development of American foreign policy during the late Cold War and afterward, and about violations of human rights during that time. His books include Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (2009), The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War's Buried History (2006), Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror (2004), The Road to Illegitimacy: One Reporter's Travel's Through the 2000 Florida Vote Recount (2004) and The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War (1994).