An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington, Jr. (H... Cover Art

An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington, Jr. (Hardcover)

By: Margaret Edds

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"Best work of non-fiction about Virginia or by a Virginia author."
Manasas Journal Messenger

"Edds's powerful telling of Washington's experience uses court documents, personal interviews, and a variety of other sources to illustrate the political and social circumstances surrounding this extraordinary case. This book invites the reader to think about how due process is carried out and implemented. An Expendable Man is a valuable study of not only the Virginia legal system, but also that of the United States."
Virginia Libraries

"Explores the dark side of the system of capital punishment. The book not only goes into great detail in recording Earl Washington, Jr.'s near-execution but also incorporates some history of the Virginia legal system."
Criminal Justice Review

"The book is provocative for its vivid characterization and its study of the death penalty's inherent flaws."
Newport News Press

"Somewhere between the personal narratives found in H. Bruce Franklin's collection Prison Writing in 20th-Century America, the critical work of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the recent profusion of sociological studies of America's accelerated prison economy, An Expendable Man gives us a moving portrait of a broad-based struggle on behalf of one man, and implies ways in which the halls of justice might become more just."
Trial & Error

"Careful documentation. Edge-of-the-seat human drama. An exploration of loopholes in judicial safeguards against wrongful executions. An Expendable Man contains all of these—and more."
The Virginian-Pilot

"An Expendable Man forcefully describes how a number of deeply committed people resurrected the hope of an innocent man. Edds's narrative painstakingly follows the sinuous protocols of due process in America. An Expendable Man gives us a moving portrait of a broad-based struggle on behalf of one man, and implies ways in which the halls of justice might become more just."
Rain Taxi

"One of the unique features of the book is its detailed explanation of the death penalty procedure in Virginia, which is second only to Texas in its number of executions."
Library Jounal

"A fascinating story, told colorfully and with the law and justice the final victor."
New York Law Journal

"With chilling clarity, Margaret Edds peels back the layers of the legal, judicial and social orders to explain how an innocent man comes within nine days of execution."
—William Raspberry, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post

"Earl Washington's story reveals the dark side of a system that is not known for admitting its mistakes. We have a lot to learn from this case, which highlights many of the problems we see over and over again in cases of wrongful conviction."
—Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chief sponsor of The Innocence Protection Act

"Margaret Edds' book on Earl Washington shows the heavy handedness with which our society deals with those it deems expendable. It demonstrates how the politics of the death penalty skews our moral compass and how a small group of volunteers toiled for many years to set it straight for one expendable man. Whatever your position on the death penalty, if you want to know how it actually works, read this book."
—Sister Helen Prejean

"In An Expendable Man, Margaret Edds gives a whole new meaning to the 'Virginia Reel,' sending the reader spinning off into dizzying fits of confusion and rage. As she carries us deeper and deeper into the Virginia justice system, one almost understands how helpless Earl Washington must have felt in the hands of those intent on killing him for something he didn't do. Edds here exposes criminal justice in Virginia as a triumph of style over substance, laying bare the ease with which the ‘seat of democracy' became a fortress of hypocrisy."
—Mike Farrell, actor and human rights activist

"Whether you support or oppose the death penalty, you need to understand what almost happened to a man named Earl Washington. Margaret Edds tells his tragic, arresting story with remarkable sensitivity and a clear-eyed understanding of the stakes not just for Earl Washington, but for all of us."
—Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics, University of Virginia

How is it possible for an innocent man to come within nine days of execution? An Expendable Man answers that question through detailed analysis of the case of Earl Washington Jr., a mentally retarded, black farm hand who was convicted of the 1983 rape and murder of a 19-year-old mother of three in Culpeper, Virginia. He spent almost 18 years in Virginia prisons—9 1/2 of them on death row—for a murder he did not commit.

This book reveals the relative ease with which individuals who live at society's margins can be wrongfully convicted, and the extraordinary difficulty of correcting such a wrong once it occurs.

Washington was eventually freed in February 2001 not because of the legal and judicial systems, but in spite of them. While DNA testing was central to his eventual pardon, such tests would never have occurred without an unusually talented and committed legal team and without a series of incidents that are best described as pure luck.

Margaret Edds makes the chilling argument that some other "expendable men" almost certainly have been less fortunate than Washington. This, she writes, is "the secret, shameful underbelly" of America's retention of capital punishment. Such wrongful executions may not happen often, but anyone who doubts that innocent people have been executed in the United States should remember the remarkable series of events necessary to save Earl Washington Jr. from such a fate.

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