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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.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

In 1983, Earl Washington, an impoverished, mentally retarded black farmhand, was convicted of the rape and murder of a white woman in Culpepper, VA. Washington spent 18 years in prison-nine of them on death row-with the sanction of the U.S. Supreme Court. Through the efforts of a fellow death row inmate, who gained the attention of a New York law firm, Washington was pardoned on DNA evidence. This book, written by a Virginia Pilot reporter who interviewed Washington, recounts the process by which the pardon came about. By no means unbiased journalism, the book contends that individulals like Washington are considered expendable by the American justice system. 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. Since Washington's case is not well known, the book may not attract the general reader, but it is well worth a place in larger crime collections.-Frances Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Timelinep. xi
1 Countdownp. 1
2 Death in Culpeperp. 10
3 A Piedmont Sonp. 16
4 Arrestp. 27
5 Confessionsp. 35
6 The Trialp. 45
7 Prisonerp. 69
8 Deadlinep. 83
9 A Discoveryp. 96
10 Appealsp. 113
11 Strategiesp. 130
12 An Endingp. 152
13 Revivalp. 166
14 Freedom Delayedp. 184
15 The Aftermathp. 196
Notesp. 213
Recommended Readingp. 231
Indexp. 235
About the Authorp. 243