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The Last Lawyer

The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates

John Temple
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Last Lawyer
    Book Description:

    The Last Lawyer is the true, inside story of how an idealistic legal genius and his diverse band of investigators and fellow attorneys fought to overturn a client's final sentence.

    Ken Rose has handled more capital appeals cases than almost any other attorney in the United States. The Last Lawyer chronicles Rose's decade-long defense of Bo Jones, a North Carolina farmhand convicted of a 1987 murder. Rose called this his most frustrating case in twenty-five years, and it was one that received scant attention from judges or journalists. The Jones case bares the thorniest issues surrounding capital punishment. Inadequate legal counsel, mental retardation, mental illness, and sketchy witness testimony stymied Jones's original defense. Yet for many years, Rose's advocacy gained no traction, and Bo Jones came within three days of his execution.

    The book follows Rose through a decade of setbacks and small triumphs as he gradually unearthed the evidence he hoped would save his client's life. At the same time, Rose also single-handedly built a nonprofit law firm that became a major force in the death penalty debate raging across the South.

    The Last Lawyer offers unprecedented access to the inner workings of a capital defense team. Based on four and a half years of behind-the-scenes reporting by a journalism professor and nonfiction author, The Last Lawyer tells the unforgettable story of a lawyer's fight for justice.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-356-3
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-2)
    (pp. 3-6)

    The roads around Parchman Farm run straight as the flight of a bullet. Even at sixty miles per hour, the flat cotton fields of the Mississippi delta stretch motionless in the distance. Clusters of convicts in bright white jumpsuits and red caps work the fields, hoes swinging up and chopping down in ragged tandem. Over the rush of wind come snatches of a baritone work song or the bark of an order from a White Hat guard slouched in his saddle, a .45 on his hip.

    Ken Rose had made the long drive from Jackson to the penitentiary work farm...

  3. PART 1 1997–1999
    (pp. 7-92)

    Heavy boxes in hand, the lawyers shuffled toward the Duplin County Courthouse. The old building’s brilliant white columns and cupola towered over the village, high above the red-brick Kenansville Drug Store, the Pizza Corner, and the Duplin Times newsroom. It was a mild March morning in 1999, clouds scattered over the coastal plain of North Carolina, and the legal team felt as confident as lawyers in their particular specialty ever did.

    Ken Rose was the lead attorney on the team defending Bo Jones. Ken was forty-two, a shambling man with bushy black hair, an unevenly cut mustache, and tired eyes....

  4. PART II 1999–2006
    (pp. 93-196)

    Notebook in hand, the reporter perched on a squeaky plastic seat in the back of the courtroom. She wondered how she was going to figure out this proceeding, unravel the facts, and distill them into a news story comprehensible to the readers of the Wallace Enterprise.

    Sheila Young was thirty-nine, and she had worked nine years at the Enterprise—published twice a week, Monday evenings and Thursday mornings. She’d spent her first seven years as a typesetter. Two years ago, in 1997, she’d told her editor she’d like to try writing some stories. Since then, Sheila had covered plenty of...

  5. PART III 2006–2008
    (pp. 197-221)

    Dr. Mark Hazelrigg hunched in the witness seat. Seven years had passed since he’d testified before Judge Davis in Duplin County. The psychologist’s beard had grayed, and his hair was nearly gone.

    Dr. Hazelrigg had not been allowed to give Bo Jones an IQ test. Ken and Mark had beaten him to it and then successfully argued that additional tests would be less valid. But Dr. Hazelrigg had visited Bo. The psychologist had shown Bo the judge’s order that had given him permission to evaluate Bo.

    “At that point,” Hazelrigg told the court, “he read through the court order. He...

    (pp. 222-231)

    It was just a press conference, but the uniformed deputy wanted spectators to behave as if court were in session.

    “No outbreaks in the courtroom,” he warned. “If so, you must leave immediately.”

    Mark Kleinschmidt sat in the front row, wringing his fingers. Nothing to do now but listen to what Dewey Hudson had to say. Some two-dozen members of Bo Jones’s family were spread out in the pews to his rear, and Bo’s new four-person legal team, which didn’t include Mark, sat shoulder-to-shoulder on a bench facing Dewey Hudson. The room echoed with the bustle and click of reporters...

    (pp. 232-234)

    I first approached Ken Rose about this book in early 2004. Always open to fresh ideas, Ken Rose was intrigued by the idea of a book that tracked a capital postconviction case from the lawyer’s point of view. On the other hand, Ken was concerned that my book could harm Bo Jones’s case. Over several months of discussions, we struck a deal. He allowed me to review all case files and observe the CDPL at work, and I agreed not to publish the book until the case reached a legal resolution, whether that meant Bo’s exoneration, retrial, or execution. In...