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A deeply reported, searingly honest portrait of the death penalty in Texas—and what it tells us about crime and punishment in America WINNER OF THE J. ANTHONY LUKAS AWARD In 1972, the United States Supreme Court made a surprising ruling: the country's death penalty system violated the Constitution. The backlash was swift, especially in Texas, where executions were consider A deeply reported, searingly honest portrait of the death penalty in Texas—and what it tells us about crime and punishment in America WINNER OF THE J. ANTHONY LUKAS AWARD In 1972, the United States Supreme Court made a surprising ruling: the country's death penalty system violated the Constitution. The backlash was swift, especially in Texas, where executions were considered part of the cultural fabric, and a dark history of lynching was masked by gauzy visions of a tough-on-crime frontier. When executions resumed, Texas quickly became the nationwide leader in carrying out the punishment. Then, amid a larger wave of criminal justice reform, came the death penalty's decline, a trend so durable that even in Texas the punishment appears again close to extinction. In Let the Lord Sort Them, Maurice Chammah charts the rise and fall of capital punishment through the eyes of those it touched. We meet Elsa Alcala, the orphaned daughter of a Mexican American family who found her calling as a prosecutor in the nation's death penalty capital, before becoming a judge on the state's highest court. We meet Danalynn Recer, a lawyer who became obsessively devoted to unearthing the life stories of men who committed terrible crimes, and fought for mercy in courtrooms across the state. We meet death row prisoners--many of them once-famous figures like Henry Lee Lucas, Gary Graham, and Karla Faye Tucker--along with their families and the families of their victims. And we meet the executioners, who struggle openly with what society has asked them to do. In tracing these interconnected lives against the rise of mass incarceration in Texas and the country as a whole, Chammah explores what the persistence of the death penalty tells us about forgiveness and retribution, fairness and justice, history and myth. Written with intimacy and grace, Let the Lord Sort Them is the definitive portrait of a particularly American institution.


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A deeply reported, searingly honest portrait of the death penalty in Texas—and what it tells us about crime and punishment in America WINNER OF THE J. ANTHONY LUKAS AWARD In 1972, the United States Supreme Court made a surprising ruling: the country's death penalty system violated the Constitution. The backlash was swift, especially in Texas, where executions were consider A deeply reported, searingly honest portrait of the death penalty in Texas—and what it tells us about crime and punishment in America WINNER OF THE J. ANTHONY LUKAS AWARD In 1972, the United States Supreme Court made a surprising ruling: the country's death penalty system violated the Constitution. The backlash was swift, especially in Texas, where executions were considered part of the cultural fabric, and a dark history of lynching was masked by gauzy visions of a tough-on-crime frontier. When executions resumed, Texas quickly became the nationwide leader in carrying out the punishment. Then, amid a larger wave of criminal justice reform, came the death penalty's decline, a trend so durable that even in Texas the punishment appears again close to extinction. In Let the Lord Sort Them, Maurice Chammah charts the rise and fall of capital punishment through the eyes of those it touched. We meet Elsa Alcala, the orphaned daughter of a Mexican American family who found her calling as a prosecutor in the nation's death penalty capital, before becoming a judge on the state's highest court. We meet Danalynn Recer, a lawyer who became obsessively devoted to unearthing the life stories of men who committed terrible crimes, and fought for mercy in courtrooms across the state. We meet death row prisoners--many of them once-famous figures like Henry Lee Lucas, Gary Graham, and Karla Faye Tucker--along with their families and the families of their victims. And we meet the executioners, who struggle openly with what society has asked them to do. In tracing these interconnected lives against the rise of mass incarceration in Texas and the country as a whole, Chammah explores what the persistence of the death penalty tells us about forgiveness and retribution, fairness and justice, history and myth. Written with intimacy and grace, Let the Lord Sort Them is the definitive portrait of a particularly American institution.

30 review for Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty

  1. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    I'm torn about this one. This book was incredibly well researched and I found parts of it extremely compelling. I especially appreciated the early sections of this on Furman and Gregg - I found it particularly interesting to read about the Jurek case as part of Gregg and the issues that arose by making the same argument in all five consolidated cases. Tying the history of capital punishment, particularly in the south, to the United States' long and horrific history of lynchings was also very wel I'm torn about this one. This book was incredibly well researched and I found parts of it extremely compelling. I especially appreciated the early sections of this on Furman and Gregg - I found it particularly interesting to read about the Jurek case as part of Gregg and the issues that arose by making the same argument in all five consolidated cases. Tying the history of capital punishment, particularly in the south, to the United States' long and horrific history of lynchings was also very well done. I enjoyed getting to know the different lawyers introduced here, in all their flaws, but often I found the personal stories broken up and disjointed - a thread would be introduced, then dropped for another story, and reintroduced on the other side - in a way that wasn't particularly effective. The point of the interrupting story wasn't always clear and frequently served more as a distraction. I also wondered at the choice of Texas as the focus, given the subtitle of "The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty." Use of capital punishment is falling in Texas, that's absolutely true, but while it's falling, it's falling far faster in other states. Texas is one of the handful of states still actively pursuing frequently executions, and has been one of the only states to carry out executions during the pandemic (in addition to the federal government's execution spree, I believe Missouri was only other state to have done so since COVID lockdowns began last March). As of the day I'm writing this review, there are currently five executions scheduled in Texas for the first half of 2021. The death penalty is certainly less frequent there, but as long as it remains the most active execution state and the biggest outlier among US states, I don't know that enough time was spent on how things are really changing in Texas to have driven the point home effectively. More comparison with other states - the ones that are changing faster, and the others that, like Texas, are changing, but at a much slower pace, would have been helpful.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    hmmm...I'm hovering between a 2.5 and 3 star rating for this one. I'll start with what I appreciate about the book. It's extensively researched and I can definitely appreciate the work that goes into interviewing people, sifting through archives, and parsing the language of court cases. It's also a really accessible account of the legal and political landscape surrounding the death penalty in Texas (and nationally to a certain extent). The author doesn't get too bogged down in the legal details hmmm...I'm hovering between a 2.5 and 3 star rating for this one. I'll start with what I appreciate about the book. It's extensively researched and I can definitely appreciate the work that goes into interviewing people, sifting through archives, and parsing the language of court cases. It's also a really accessible account of the legal and political landscape surrounding the death penalty in Texas (and nationally to a certain extent). The author doesn't get too bogged down in the legal details so I think this book ultimately is a good overview for someone who has a mild interest in understanding the legal mechanics of the judicial system. My number one complaint is that the book feels extremely disjointed and hard to follow most of the time. The chapters seem like they would be better off as standalone articles; there's not really any connection between the various sections. When there were connections between multiple chapters, I found it hard to follow. The author jumped between timeframes in weird and unpredictable ways. I found myself going back a few pages many times in order to understand what was going on when the author rapidly flipped from one anecdote to the next. I also feel like the title is an inaccurate description of the book. This wasn't so much charting the "rise and fall" of the death penalty, but was more of a biographical account of the lawyers, judges, and death row inmates in Texas. I missed the theme of "rise and fall." I struggled to find the overarching theme or argument from the author. Again, this book was more autobiographical/ethnographical. Finally, at times I felt like it was overwritten. Particularly when talking about the lawyers involved in the cases. It's interesting to read about both prosecutor and defense attorney's responses to the cases, but there was too much anecdotal information that wasn't necessary to further the alleged theme of the book. This isn't a bad book, but it's not the best either. Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    Maurice Chammah's "Let the Lord Sort Them" is a non-fiction work about the death penalty in the United States with a particular focus on Texas. I recently finished Robert Perkinson's Texas Tough, which is about how Texas laid the groundwork for our current system of mass incarceration, and "Let the Lord Sort Them" was a really great extension to what I learned about in that book. Chammah highlights some of the people in Texas prosecuting and defending alleged felons, the lives of the alleged fel Maurice Chammah's "Let the Lord Sort Them" is a non-fiction work about the death penalty in the United States with a particular focus on Texas. I recently finished Robert Perkinson's Texas Tough, which is about how Texas laid the groundwork for our current system of mass incarceration, and "Let the Lord Sort Them" was a really great extension to what I learned about in that book. Chammah highlights some of the people in Texas prosecuting and defending alleged felons, the lives of the alleged felons themselves and their families, and the continuing struggle to outlaw legal executions. Overall, this was a really interesting and well-researched book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Robert Stevens

    While this book by Maurice Chammah covers a heavy topic, the death penalty in Texas, the book itself is not written in a way that is a chore to get through. A major takeaway for me is how important defense lawyers are and how many defendants do not get quality lawyers, which is not good for people or justice. Also, this book points out how many aspects go overlooked and appeals courts do not always consider the injustice done in lower courts. The perspectives of politicians, judges, lawyers, adv While this book by Maurice Chammah covers a heavy topic, the death penalty in Texas, the book itself is not written in a way that is a chore to get through. A major takeaway for me is how important defense lawyers are and how many defendants do not get quality lawyers, which is not good for people or justice. Also, this book points out how many aspects go overlooked and appeals courts do not always consider the injustice done in lower courts. The perspectives of politicians, judges, lawyers, advocates, juries (one of the strongest parts of the book comes from discussing the personal toll death penalty cases had on jurists) and criminals was a nice and important component to show the humanity and subjective nature of some areas of crime and punishment. The move from retribution and pushing the symbolic nature of the death penalty to redemption and rehabilitation signals the fall of the death penalty despite executions still happening. The death penalty is a systemic failure. Change is up to us as we do indeed write the story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor Guzzio

    I loved this book! But frankly I almost passed on what I thought was going to be a dull and dry, narrow in scope and depressing read. I was wrong big time. I found the topic to be interesting in ways I did not expect, the writing sensitive and insightful, and the stories compelling. Let the Lord Sort Them, serves to educate us on a uniquely American institution that deserves our attention. It gives us a well researched legal history of the death penalty, which I found surprisingly readable, as we I loved this book! But frankly I almost passed on what I thought was going to be a dull and dry, narrow in scope and depressing read. I was wrong big time. I found the topic to be interesting in ways I did not expect, the writing sensitive and insightful, and the stories compelling. Let the Lord Sort Them, serves to educate us on a uniquely American institution that deserves our attention. It gives us a well researched legal history of the death penalty, which I found surprisingly readable, as well as the stories of so many people affected by it; and not just the ones you would expect--- prosecutors and defense attorneys, judges, and those condemned to die, but their families and the families of their victims. We see perhaps for the first time, an intimate account of the men and women who carry out the demands of our criminal justice system. Correction officers, prison guards, executioners, death row lawyers and chaplains, government officials, activists, and even journalists who may cover their stories. While we see the worst in human nature, injustice, racism, violence, cruelty, in Chammah's capable hands we also see kindness, mercy and hope. In Chammah's own words, Let The Lord sort Them “grants people access to each other,” access to people we otherwise might never know, and shows us something of who we are as Americans. This is important reading. A story that needs to be heard. I highly recommend it for the general public, but especially for those in the mental health field, and legal professions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    Is the death penalty a deterrent? Who "qualifies"? Who are the decision makers at all levels? This compelling book's focus is the death penalty in Texas from differing perspectives including those who made practice procedural runs for the first lethal injection, the families on both sides who watch (or don't), the crowds outside the prison, prison workers and the legal team. Of course the case for or against the death penalty, the question of morals and humane treatment and legislation are discu Is the death penalty a deterrent? Who "qualifies"? Who are the decision makers at all levels? This compelling book's focus is the death penalty in Texas from differing perspectives including those who made practice procedural runs for the first lethal injection, the families on both sides who watch (or don't), the crowds outside the prison, prison workers and the legal team. Of course the case for or against the death penalty, the question of morals and humane treatment and legislation are discussed as well as the actual procedure and injection effects on the prisoner and those around him or her. Judge Elsa Alcala and lawyer Danalynn Recer figure prominently throughout as we are given glimpses into their emotions and push for what they believed in. Racial discrimination is another important discussion point in the book and as is shown has a lot of bearing on the outcomes of trials and imprisonment and sentences. Mentions of last words and last meals add poignancy to the very sobering topic...they make it even more real. It is fascinating to read about those who are physically involved in the deaths and how they do what they do and the toll it takes on them. Another aspect I found intriguing was how several infamous prisoners faced their deaths. A lot of history is included here, too. Be sure to read the thorough chapter notes at the back. The depth of research involved in this book is staggering. My sincere thank you to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this riveting and moving read in exchange for an honest review. Much appreciated.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul Cohen

    Anyone concerned with justice in this country should read this important and deeply informed book, which is as essential as such classics on the death penalty as Raymond Bonner’s Anatomy of Injustice. While the book is written in a journalistic, almost novelistic, style that will be accessible to the general public, its extensive section of notes and sources at the end provides ample support for all of the book’s facts and claims. Chammah makes his narrative concrete by focusing on a small selec Anyone concerned with justice in this country should read this important and deeply informed book, which is as essential as such classics on the death penalty as Raymond Bonner’s Anatomy of Injustice. While the book is written in a journalistic, almost novelistic, style that will be accessible to the general public, its extensive section of notes and sources at the end provides ample support for all of the book’s facts and claims. Chammah makes his narrative concrete by focusing on a small selection of specific cases and individuals, but they are expertly chosen to represent the various issues which need discussion. He closes the book with a prominent attorney’s observation that trial lawyers are storytellers, but that, unlike a literary storyteller, “a lawyer cannot conclude the story. She uses the story to leave the jury or the judge to favor the conclusion she wants, but then she must step back and wait for the conclusion: a decision in her favor or not.” Ultimately, Chammah writes, “it is up to all of us to decide the ending.” Like it or not, we all have the responsibility to decide whether capital punishment is the right thing for our society. This is literally a life-or-death decision. Chammah’s excellent book gives us the tools “to decide the ending” for ourselves.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alannah Balfour

    Must-read for those of us disturbed by state-sponsored murder, in all its forms. "At the trial of Juan Quintero, prosecutors told the story of a villain who kills the heroic police officer and will kill again unless the jury, the new heroes of the story, step in and vanquish him with a death sentence, delivering justice to Johnson's grieving family and saving the community from future harm. But the jury was drawn to Danalynn Recer's story, in which Quintero was the protagonist, struggling to esca Must-read for those of us disturbed by state-sponsored murder, in all its forms. "At the trial of Juan Quintero, prosecutors told the story of a villain who kills the heroic police officer and will kill again unless the jury, the new heroes of the story, step in and vanquish him with a death sentence, delivering justice to Johnson's grieving family and saving the community from future harm. But the jury was drawn to Danalynn Recer's story, in which Quintero was the protagonist, struggling to escape the abuse of his alcoholic father and immigrating to the United States in homes of making a better life, and then, threatened with the sudden undoing of that life, shooting the officer in a moment of panic. It made sense to them that such a man would immediately feel remorseful and hope to spend the rest of his life making up for that terrible moment if only they showed him mercy, Neither story was objectively true; they were two different visions of the same information, each entangled in webs of particular beliefs and cultural influences, each shaped by forces only partially understood by the storyteller herself."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    A look at the death penalty in this country and all its implications focusing primarily on the Huntsville prison in Texas from the 1970's to the present. The author gives a vivid and humanistic look at the inmates, their jailers and groups like the Texas Resource Center who sent young attorneys to help with getting a stay of execution or last minute appeals. They worked tirelessly winning some and sadly attending the last minutes of their client's lives with others. Even now, there are groups wh A look at the death penalty in this country and all its implications focusing primarily on the Huntsville prison in Texas from the 1970's to the present. The author gives a vivid and humanistic look at the inmates, their jailers and groups like the Texas Resource Center who sent young attorneys to help with getting a stay of execution or last minute appeals. They worked tirelessly winning some and sadly attending the last minutes of their client's lives with others. Even now, there are groups who attend every scheduled execution at Huntsville to protest and pray outside those formidable walls. Maurice Chammah is a journalist from Texas who gives a passionate and well-researched account and history of capital punishment and leaves it up to the reader to decide if this is well dispensed justice or a morally unacceptable part of our system. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Bishop

    The author, Maurice Chammah, paints a compelling picture of the past, current, and potential future of the death penalty in the American criminal justice system. A largely even-handed approach to the subject matter and the people who color the pages of this book, Chammah lays out how and why America came to romanticize "frontier justice" and how our attitudes toward capital punishment are changing. Chammah largely focuses on the stories of the prosecutors and defense attorneys who have battled o The author, Maurice Chammah, paints a compelling picture of the past, current, and potential future of the death penalty in the American criminal justice system. A largely even-handed approach to the subject matter and the people who color the pages of this book, Chammah lays out how and why America came to romanticize "frontier justice" and how our attitudes toward capital punishment are changing. Chammah largely focuses on the stories of the prosecutors and defense attorneys who have battled over the death penalty but paints a slightly more favorable light on those who are "caught in the middle" on the issue. This is not a quarrel with the book, but it simply highlights the fact that the reader should determine for themselves where exactly they stand on the issue - as the subjects of the book have done in their own differing ways. I highly recommend this book to anyone.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

    This book by Maurice Chammah was a great read! I have been a fan of Chammah’s work ever since reading articles written by him for the Marshall Project, and this book did not disappoint. It was clear that the author did extensive research on the subjects of the book, and the interviews he featured were interesting and insightful. I would have liked to see more focus on the criminal cases he mentioned in the book but I understand that the primary focus of the novel was the lawyers working on these This book by Maurice Chammah was a great read! I have been a fan of Chammah’s work ever since reading articles written by him for the Marshall Project, and this book did not disappoint. It was clear that the author did extensive research on the subjects of the book, and the interviews he featured were interesting and insightful. I would have liked to see more focus on the criminal cases he mentioned in the book but I understand that the primary focus of the novel was the lawyers working on these cases. I rated the book 3 stars because I agree with another reviewer in that the book did seem disjointed at times and some of the parts did not connect well with each other in my opinion. Thank you to Random House and Crown Publishing for this ARC!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    His central thesis is that the death penalty is declining in use ( despite the best efforts of the former guy to kill as many people as possible before exiting.) because attitudes have changed considerably. He traces those changes through the life stories of a couple of lawyers and any number of cases, from the SCOTUS cases of the 1970’a, when the death penalty seemed on the point of ending, through the Reagan and Bush years, when executions increased dramatically along with the entire prison sy His central thesis is that the death penalty is declining in use ( despite the best efforts of the former guy to kill as many people as possible before exiting.) because attitudes have changed considerably. He traces those changes through the life stories of a couple of lawyers and any number of cases, from the SCOTUS cases of the 1970’a, when the death penalty seemed on the point of ending, through the Reagan and Bush years, when executions increased dramatically along with the entire prison system, to today’s declining cases. This is I think an important book. Subtracting a star because the writing is sometimes clunky or unclear. (Pronouns: they need antecedents.) it is compelling, though, full of insight and really good stories. He has an eye for the telling detail.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ron Scrogham

    When the Supreme Court allowed the Texas application of capital punishment, which partly dependent upon a calculation of "future dangerousness" of a defendant, it paved the way for Texas to be the most prolific executioner in the United States. As capital punishment continues to decline approval, one can reasonable predict that Texas will be the last of the states to abolish the death penalty. Its fierce independence and its intoxication with the myth of Texas frontier justice ensures this. Cham When the Supreme Court allowed the Texas application of capital punishment, which partly dependent upon a calculation of "future dangerousness" of a defendant, it paved the way for Texas to be the most prolific executioner in the United States. As capital punishment continues to decline approval, one can reasonable predict that Texas will be the last of the states to abolish the death penalty. Its fierce independence and its intoxication with the myth of Texas frontier justice ensures this. Chammah creates a narrative of multiple protagonists that tells of the United States' embrace of the death penalty with Texas as its most enthusiastic executioner. Hopefully, this will book will add to the momentum of ending this abhorrent practice.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    I am from Calif and one of the items on the ballot a long time ago was voting for or against the death penalty. I voted for it. I do not know in the long run if if deterred crime or not. This book is most interesting because it talks about the death penalty especially in Texas but across the nation also. It comes from the perpective of prosecuters, judges, people who deal with this in the prisons, the prisoners themselves and their families. This book gave me a lot to think to think about. I hav I am from Calif and one of the items on the ballot a long time ago was voting for or against the death penalty. I voted for it. I do not know in the long run if if deterred crime or not. This book is most interesting because it talks about the death penalty especially in Texas but across the nation also. It comes from the perpective of prosecuters, judges, people who deal with this in the prisons, the prisoners themselves and their families. This book gave me a lot to think to think about. I have not changed my mind. But it would be far better if our society did not have not murders to start with.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jules

    This is a moving, well-researched book telling the story of capital punishment in Texas. The author is unflinching in his portrayal of what is required to carry out the death penalty in a legal and physical sense. It covers an impressive span of time, basically whole professional careers, and only one state, but it's the state you would cover for this subject. At times, I found my mind wandering when reading the long descriptions of how difficult it was for lawyers to balance work and personal l This is a moving, well-researched book telling the story of capital punishment in Texas. The author is unflinching in his portrayal of what is required to carry out the death penalty in a legal and physical sense. It covers an impressive span of time, basically whole professional careers, and only one state, but it's the state you would cover for this subject. At times, I found my mind wandering when reading the long descriptions of how difficult it was for lawyers to balance work and personal lives. This book goes well beyond banalities and surface discussion of the issue to present profound reflection on the subject.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kasey Lawson

    “The decline could partially be attributed to public outrage over wrongful convictions, and partially to skilled defense lawyering. Partially it was libertarian talk of high costs and big government and Christian talk of human redemption and liberal talk of racial inequality. You could debate which of these factors were more or less influential, but all had played a role. Even if the death penalty were to remain legally viable for the long term, and even if executions continued, it would take an “The decline could partially be attributed to public outrage over wrongful convictions, and partially to skilled defense lawyering. Partially it was libertarian talk of high costs and big government and Christian talk of human redemption and liberal talk of racial inequality. You could debate which of these factors were more or less influential, but all had played a role. Even if the death penalty were to remain legally viable for the long term, and even if executions continued, it would take an entirely new chapter in the country’s political and cultural life to bring the punishment back to prominence.”

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dominique

    Very well researched and I appreciated the work that was put into it. However, with all the different interviews and stories, it often felt very disjointed. I also didn’t realize that it would almost solely be focused on Texas. I would have loved to see a bit more on the history behind the death penalty, as well as a closer look at ALL states that still have it and why. It just seemed more like a biography of the inmates and lawyers involved in the Texas cases he chose to highlight, which made i Very well researched and I appreciated the work that was put into it. However, with all the different interviews and stories, it often felt very disjointed. I also didn’t realize that it would almost solely be focused on Texas. I would have loved to see a bit more on the history behind the death penalty, as well as a closer look at ALL states that still have it and why. It just seemed more like a biography of the inmates and lawyers involved in the Texas cases he chose to highlight, which made it kind of a chore to get through.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shaun Jones

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Very in depth look at the death penalty. Does a good job of showing the complexities that go with a death sentence. Shines a light on the state of Texas & their policies towards executing people. Several cases that are outlined make opposing the death penalty hard, but the practice needs to be viewed in its entirety. Well written & well researched book. Would love to see universities adopt this as part of their curriculum.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    An excellent thoughtful exploration of the death penalty in the US, and especially in Texas. Chammah examines the trends in public opinion and how it tracks with court decisions about the death penalty and interviews prosecutors and defenders, the unequally applied penalty, and the effects on those living with a sentence and guarding those with such a sentence. It's brilliantly read by Kevin Free too. An excellent thoughtful exploration of the death penalty in the US, and especially in Texas. Chammah examines the trends in public opinion and how it tracks with court decisions about the death penalty and interviews prosecutors and defenders, the unequally applied penalty, and the effects on those living with a sentence and guarding those with such a sentence. It's brilliantly read by Kevin Free too.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erin Matson

    Can the application of the death penalty ever be fair in the real-world contexts in which we live? Of the many disturbing questions about the practice of government execution, this is where Let The Lord Sort Them leaves readers like myself shaken. I don’t know how readers who support the death penalty would respond to this book and what would rise to the surface for them. It would be interesting and possibly frightening to know.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book is mainly about the death penalty in Texas. The best and most coherent chapter is the epilogue. The rest of the book read to me like an unfocused compilation of stories about people convicted of heinous crimes, attorneys, judges, and victims and their families. They're all interesting and engaging stories, and I know they link together in ways that create a larger argument, but what that is was kind of lost on me. This book is mainly about the death penalty in Texas. The best and most coherent chapter is the epilogue. The rest of the book read to me like an unfocused compilation of stories about people convicted of heinous crimes, attorneys, judges, and victims and their families. They're all interesting and engaging stories, and I know they link together in ways that create a larger argument, but what that is was kind of lost on me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    K2 -----

    This book got better the more I read. I am a part of the criminal justice reform movement and I learned quite a bit from this book I wasn't aware of. Thank you Mr. Chammah for this fine tome, I hope that it raises people's awareness of the senselessness of our current prison system and all it stands for. This is a worthwhile read for anyone who will take the time to learn about a system we need to change and has roots in a part of our history we should all be ashamed of. This book got better the more I read. I am a part of the criminal justice reform movement and I learned quite a bit from this book I wasn't aware of. Thank you Mr. Chammah for this fine tome, I hope that it raises people's awareness of the senselessness of our current prison system and all it stands for. This is a worthwhile read for anyone who will take the time to learn about a system we need to change and has roots in a part of our history we should all be ashamed of.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    Overall I thought this was a great read. It gives a good overview of the death penalty, particularly in the state of Texas, but it does branch out a bit beyond that. It really only covers the last 50 years or so, and again mainly focuses on Texas, but it paints a good picture of the system as a whole.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cosgrove

    This book was so informative and included the perspective of the many different people involved when a person is executed. Great writing made it easy to read. My only critique would be that I would have liked to see a little bit more information about the death penalty in other states while still keeping the focus on texas.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    An excellent, well written narrative using Texas to illustrate broader trends in the legal and public ideas surrounding the death penalty. I've read tons on the subject and found this contributed to my knowledge and understanding of the issue. It's not too dense or overly legalistic, but reads like an interesting story. Really wonderful. An excellent, well written narrative using Texas to illustrate broader trends in the legal and public ideas surrounding the death penalty. I've read tons on the subject and found this contributed to my knowledge and understanding of the issue. It's not too dense or overly legalistic, but reads like an interesting story. Really wonderful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    3.5 - Knowing so many of the people in this book, I was skeptical. The title does not reflect the content; however, it does a wonderful job at sketching out multi dimensional profiles of the key people in the death penalty movement in Texas. I actually prefer this to another book about the history of the death penalty.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Esther Nevener

    Interesting but not entertaining. Chammah simply tells stories of what has happened in America with the death penalty and leaves the readers to decide what side to take. This was a hard book to read because of all the sad factors around this topic that have to be considered. This book was very educational and insightful.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Krista Rodriguez

    Not an easy subject. I have always been against the death penalty since I was a child. I just could not understand it then and still do not. This is an excellent book looking at all perspectives. Lots of stats and info combined with real stories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This takes what became ordinary or forgotten and examines it in its full moral context, fleshing out the people dedicated to resisting the ultimate power of the state. Great journalism, and a great read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    Interesting. New perspective on our prison system - life in prison or execution? Interviews with those on death row. I thought I knew my stand on the death sentence, now I'm not so sure. Good read. Interesting. New perspective on our prison system - life in prison or execution? Interviews with those on death row. I thought I knew my stand on the death sentence, now I'm not so sure. Good read.

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