Adult / Non Fiction / True Crime / Death Row
I gave this book 4 out of 5 Stars
In Dateline: Purgatory, award-winning journalist Kathy Cruz enlists current-day legal experts to weigh in on the shocking transgressions that resulted in one of the country's most controversial death penalty convictions.
With the help of the infamous death row inmate, Darlier Routier, and a former FBI Special Agent known as “Crimefighter,” Cruz would find that her journey through Purgatory was as much about herself as it was about the woman dubbed “Dallas’s Susan Smith.”
I remember well June 1996 when Darlie Routier was accused of stabbing two of her three young boys to death. I was the mother of a two-year-old, living just an hour away from where the crime had happened, and I followed the story. I was mesmerized and horrified that any mother could so brutally kill her own children; I was disgusted when I saw the damning "Silly String video;" I mourned those two little boys and all who were missing them.
What Dateline: Purgatory feels like more than anything is an investigative reporter's journey to find rational explanations where none seem to exist. This book is as the title indicates: an EXAMINATION into the case of death row inmate Darlie Routier. Readers will be introduced to information that the jury didn't have for consideration as well as the possibility of new information that could soon be available due to advances in technology. But is it enough to save Routier -- or should she be saved at all?
"How do they put a person to death with no motive, no confession, no eyewitnesses, and no solid evidence? Only in Texas." -- Darlie Routier, in a letter to her auntAuthor Kathy Cruz is an excellent writer and makes use of figurative language to really illustrate her points and observations. For readers from Texas, the inclusion of specific details of the places Cruz went for interviews was interesting and puts readers right into the scenes. The writing is very contemplative in nature, and Cruz is clearly driven to keep asking questions. Though she doesn't know why, Cruz can't shake that she's being called to do this investigation.
Without taking notes, readers won't likely recall all of the information Cruz has gathered that would help the case for Routier to clear her name; instead, the story is organized more from the author's interviews and recollections. What could have really strengthened the book is a summary, bullet-point list of facts -- or at least compelling evidence -- showing Routier didn't get a fair trial. Too much information is presented in a non-linear way for this reader to be able to synthesize it.
I can't say whether Routier is guilty or innocent, but based on the facts (not theories) presented, it does appear she didn't get a fair trial -- the problems with the court reporter/reporting alone should have been enough to declare a mistrial. As it stands, all that's available is a reconstruction of the trial transcript, so who knows what truths have been varied or buried?
Routier's case is again in the spotlight and was featured recently on CNN's Death Row Stories, and as recently as last April, Texas State District Judge Gracie Lewis ordered additional forensic testing on several items, including the infamous bloody sock, a baseball cap, a nightshirt and the knife. The clock is ticking, but hopefully a definitive answer will be found out before Darlie Routier is put to death - possibly undeservingly.
Thank you to Lone Star Literary Life and the publisher for providing me a print copy of this book in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.
Kathy Cruz is a former reporter for The Dallas Morning News, now working as a staff writer at the Hood County News in Granbury, 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth. She has won numerous Journalist of the Year honors from Texas press associations, as well as many other awards from regional, state and national press associations. She is the co-author of You Might Want to Carry a Gun: Community Newspapers Expose Big Problems in Small Towns. Cruz is the recipient of five awards for excellence in legal reporting, including a Texas Gavel Award and four Stephen Philbin Awards from the Dallas Bar Association – two of which were grand prizes. Learn more on the Dateline: Purgatory Website