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Wednesday
May132009

A Saint on Death Row

I just finished reading A Saint on Death Row: The Story of Domonique Green by Thomas Cahill. I try to read everythig Cahill writes. If you say you don't like history, that means you've probably never read Cahill. He's an amazing historian and writer. (A couple of his books are on my "I Recommend..." page.) This book is much different than most of his work. But you can tell that Dominique Green's story is close to his heart. He writes with great passion (and some...uh...colorful language).

For those who are die-hard supporters of capital punishment, this book probably will not change your mind. For those who oppose the death penalty, it will reinforce your thinking and stir your heart. But there is more to this short book. If you read to the end, you'll hear Cahill's call for us to be a society that takes better care of our children. The story of Dominique's childhood is difficult to read. He had parents, but no one to protect him from those parents.

"Dominique Green was an unloved, African American young man, who was poor in spirit as well as material goods. His parents were alcoholics and his father was addicted to marijuana. His mother was mentally ill and repeatedly tortured and physically abused Dominique and his younger brothers, going so far as holding their hands over a flaming stove.

To save his fragile siblings, Dominique took their punishment. Once he took his brother to a homeless shelter where they lived to avoid the constant abuse at home. When Dominique, at age 15, and his younger brother Marlon were thrown out of their house by their mother, Dominique rented a storage shed for the two of them to live in and sold drugs to support Marlon and himself."

Cahill asks, "Are we really so dull-witted, so uncreative a society that we can come up with no better response to the plight of such children than the inadequate social welfare programs sponsored by most states, as our governments bide their time till these unfortunate children grow old enough to be incarcerated?" (Cahill doesn't mince words.)

The last chapter is a list of books, articles, and web sites that you can use to learn more about capital punishment and child advocacy. You can also find them by clicking on the image above.

To me, one of the most moving portions of the book was the description of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's visit to the Huntsville, Texas prison where Dominique was on death row. Cahill accompanied him and shows us a hidden side of this remarkable spiritual leader.

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