A Saint on Death Row
The Story of Dominique Green
By Thomas Cahill
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385520195, 160pp.)
Publication Date: March 10, 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Compact Disc
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On October 26, 2004, Dominique Green, thirty, was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas. Arrested at the age of eighteen in the fatal shooting of a man during a robbery outside a Houston convenience store, Green may have taken part in the robbery but always insisted that he did not pull the trigger. The jury, which had no African Americans on it, sentenced him to death. Despite obvious errors in the legal procedures and the protests of the victim’s family, he spent the last twelve years of his life on Death Row.
When Cahill found himself in Texas in December 2003, he visited Dominique at the request of Judge Sheila Murphy, who was working on the appeal of the case. In Dominique, he encountered a level of goodness, peace, and enlightenment that few human beings ever attain. Cahill joined the fierce fight for Dominique’s life, even enlisting Dominique’s hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to make an historic visit to Dominique and to plead publicly for mercy. Cahill was so profoundly moved by Dominique’s extraordinary life that he was compelled to tell the tragic story of his unjust death at the hands of the state.
A Saint on Death Row will introduce you to a young man whose history, innate goodness, and final days you will never forget. It also shines a necessary light on America’s racist and deeply flawed legal system. A Saint on Death Row is an absorbing, sobering, and deeply spiritual story that illuminates the moral imperatives too often ignored in the headlong quest for justice.
THOMAS CAHILL is the author of five volumes in the Hinges of History series: How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, and Mysteries of the Middle Ages. They have been bestsellers not only in the United States but also in countries ranging from Italy to Brazil. He and his wife, Susan, also a writer, divide their time between New York City and Rome.
Thomas Cahill catalogs every disgraceful aspect of Dominique Green's experience with the justice system. His larger mission, though, is to examine the changes Green underwent after receiving his death sentence -- his transformation from a troubled teenager into what Cahill calls "a fully achieved human being."
“There are many ways to tell the tragic story of America's death rows. Tom Cahill has chosen to show -- through the extraordinary life of one man -- that God is always working everywhere and can bring the most beautiful soul to maturity in even the most horrifying circumstances. If you read his story, you will never forget Dominique Green, nor will you ever feel the same way about our courts, our prisons, and our criminal justice system. This book is a life-changer.”
—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking
“Dominique Green was a wonderful man whose life demonstrated the power of God to heal and transfigure even the most unlikely people and places. Who could have expected that Texas Death Row would be made into an avenue of divine grace? -- which is exactly what happened through Dominique's instrumentation. Though this is a book that ends in death, it does not end in despair. Read it and discover how even the obscenity of capital punishment can be transformed into an occasion of light and peace.”
—Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa
"A tremendously moving book--all the more effective because of the tempered voice with which Cahill narrates an unspeakable injustice. Dominique Green's personal and moral triumph, prior to his execution under the benighted legal processes of Texas, is portrayed with so much sensitivity, and the racial factor that Cahill emphasizes is conveyed so forcefully, that I expect A Saint On Death Row to become a classic in the growing struggle to cleanse this nation finally of the sin of the death penalty."
"A deeply moving narrative about a man transformed as he faced an unjust execution."
—James H. Cone, author of Black Theology and Black Power and Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare?
“A Saint on Death Row is not the first book blasting the Texas criminal justice system, and it won't be last. But Cahill's book is one of the most compelling.”
—San Antonio Express
“Cahill stimulates deep thought about good and evil, and he is an intelligent, engaging historian…. A Saint on Death Row is an affecting book.”
—Dallas Morning News
“A Saint on Death Row tells, on one level, the Kafkaesque particulars of one young black man's transmogrifying journey through the justice system to its ultimate punishment. On another level, the book is the story of how a young black man held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day helped inspire a movement for an international moratorium on state-sanctioned executions, helped inspire a U.N. resolution against the death penalty, hosted a pilgrimage by South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu to death row in Huntsville, Tex., and helped transform the lives of the other men with whom he shared death row.
Most powerful, however, is the story of redemption and forgiveness contained in this slim volume. In stunning testimony of the human heart's capability for forgiveness, Bernatte and Andre Lastrapes, the wife and son of the man Dominique Green was executed for allegedly having killed, spoke out about the injustice of Green's trial and bore witness to both Green's personal apotheosis and the inexorably tragic meaninglessness of his execution.
Cahill, author of the popular 'Hinges of History in the Western World' collection (including How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gift of the Jews) does not write as a polemicist, an expert on the law, or as courtroom dramatist. With deceptively casual prose, Cahill writes of how he came to be personally involved with Green's case and, more deeply, with Green himself. More like a set of extended reflective journal entries—indeed, Cahill's prologue is him quoting from his own written first impressions upon initially meeting Green—the voice in A Saint on Death Row is without the bathos or plaintiveness of a mere death-penalty partisan. It is the voice of a layman looking on with growing disbelief at the machinery of the state as it moves toward taking the life of a young man….
Thomas Cahill's excellent book allows readers to meet Dominique Green and suggests that no one deserves to die like he did.”
—Baltimore City Paper
“[P]repare for your level of disturbance to be pushed up a quantum step or two by Tom Cahill's new book, A Saint on Death Row, which mounts a powerful challenge to any notion that all is more or less OK with the administration of criminal justice in the US. Known for books like How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gift of the Jews, and other charmingly erudite excursions into cultural history, Cahill has produced a very contemporary piece of reportage and observation in his new book. At the center of it is the 'saint' of the title, one Dominique Green, who, once you've gotten to know him in Cahill's pages, is not likely to slip very quickly from your memory.… [I]t's impossible to read Cahill's quiet, straightforward, entirely unforced portrait of Dominique without being moved by it.”
—The Daily Beast
“You pick up a book that clocks in at 160 pages and you naturally assume it will be an easy read. But the story of Dominique Green is so tragic, so overwhelming and powerful that I'm not sure Cahill could've padded it even if he'd wanted to…. [T]his is not merely an academic account of miscarried justice. It's a person with a voice lending that voice to someone who has been dehumanized, debased and locked away in a cage to rue the steadily loudening drumbeat of his impending execution…. Cahill's central question lingers like the burn of stomach acid in the back of one's throat: What did we gain—what?—by killing him?”
"An impassioned, very personal plea against racism, poverty and the death penalty."