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

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

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.

Title:Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781524760267
Format Type:

    Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty Reviews

  • 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 par...

  • 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, whic...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 de...

  • 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 ...

  • 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...

  • 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 Injustic...

  • 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 a...

  • 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 ...

  • 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...