edited: Thursday, March 29, 2007
By Norma Herrera
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2007
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Reviewed by Sabrina William
Reviewed by Sabrina Williams, January 23, 2007
The story of Leonel Herrera is a picture of a flawed justice system. In Last Words From Death Row, Norma Herrera relates the events of the early 1980s which took place in a small border town in Texas that put an innocent man, her brother, on death row. Reading the story is like suffering through the horrendous ordeal with Norma. She begins by explaining her family's history. Her father, Jose, an abusive man, was a key player in a drug cartel propagated by local law enforcement. He did not hesitate to bring his sons into his saga of corruption and make them key players in it, as well. As Norma opens her home to us, we become familiar with her family through photographs.
Leonel was a cocaine addict and his pitiful situation made him an easy target to be framed. When two police officers associated with the cartel are gunned down due to a failed transaction, the Hidalgo County Police Department wastes no time pinning the crime on Leonel. Arrested and beaten to the brink of death, labelled a cop-killer, Leo immediately went to trial based on false circumstancial evidence. With a corrupt legal system facilitating his trial, he is sentenced to death by lethal injection. A series of mysterious deaths occur afterward while evidence of Herrera's innocence surfaces. Norma and her family began an exhaustive battle against legal technicalities preventing the new evidence to be presented.
This is a true story that evokes strong empathy from the reader. Norma points out repeatedly how easily one of our own family members could be sentenced to death for crimes they had absolutely nothing to do with. Her frustration and sense of helplessness are apparent in her words. The controversy caught the attention of thousands of sympathetic Americans, including celebrities such as Danny Glover, who spoke at rallies organized in support of Leonel and others like him. The story makes a strong argument for those who oppose the use of capital punishment under any circumstances. It presents an alarming reality that forces the reader to question the sanctity of the American judicial system.