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Davis, W.A. (2005). Between Two Deaths: Life on the Row. Am. Imago, 62(3):285-313.

(2005). American Imago, 62(3):285-313

Between Two Deaths: Life on the Row

Walter A. Davis

“And I have told you this to make you grieve.”

—Dante, Inferno, Canto XXIV

Program Note

This play is based on two meetings I had in May of 2005 with a man who has been on death row in San Quentin for the past fifteen years. The meetings (one lasting seventy-five minutes, the other two hours) were face-to-face in booths over a telephone with a plexiglass partition between us. I was not permitted to take either pencil and paper or a tape recorder to the meetings. Indeed, had the authorities known I planned to write this work I would not have been permitted inside San Quentin. Additionally, I met with the lawyer who represented the inmate in the appeals process for ten years, a private investigator who does field work interviewing family, acquaintances, medical personnel, and others in connection with the appeal process, and an attorney who has done extensive work documenting conditions within California's prisons. I also read the court transcripts of the inmate's original trial and penalty phase proceedings as well as a number of secondary sources that are listed in the references. The inmate's appeal of the death sentence is now at the Federal level. For that reason I have been advised by attorneys not to use his name and to take other steps to disguise his identity. Within the terms of that restriction what follows is a factually complete document. There are, of course, over 600 inmates currently on death row in San Quentin.

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