The untold story
of Dennis Stockton and
Click HERE for an excerpt
Virginian-Pilot editor Burke and writer Jackson produce a dark epic chronicling the only multiple escape from death row, and the redemption of a man condemned for a killing likely not his own doing, in that rare volume that is at once a taut, gripping true-crime ride and a disturbing indictment of the nether regions of criminal justice.
Career criminal Dennis Stockton received a 1983 death sentence for a 1978 murder only tenuously tied to him, and was sent to Mecklenberg, a supposedly escape-proof prison, in reality deeply compromised by collusion between cowed guards and convicted killers with nothing to lose. Led by the notoriously vicious Briley brothers, six prisoners pulled off an astounding escape that involved capturing a dozen guards and forcing an officer to simulate a bomb scare; yet Stockton stayed behind, in hopes of proving his innocence in court.
Later, he sent his Death Row Diary to the authors; his disclosures amplified the escape scandal, and embarrassed officials sent Stockton on a long tour of Virginias worst penal institutions. Stockton was executed in 1995 in the midst of growing attention to unearthed discrepancies in his case, and evidence including signed affidavits asserting the real killers identity.
This grim tale is transformed into something more weighty than mere violent pulp by its audacious portrayals of the prisoners; without minimizing their ghastly deeds, Jackson and Burke evoke their doomed humanity and the strength they needed to survive the elaborate terrors of a death sentence. The centerpiece of the escape plot is rendered authentically, as great ingenuity in the face of desperate oddsan irresistible drama. And Stockton himself emerges memorably, an incorrigible crook transformed through craft and late bravery.
Though the authors prose is brisk and engaging, the generous implication throughout is that this self-taught writers perceptions and observations are paramount. Even jaded readers, attentions captured by the pyrotechnical escape plot, will recognize the likely injustice in Stocktons state-sanctioned fate. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Update from Philip Turner, editor of Dead Run:
Since the appearance of the hardcover edition in November 1999, the authors have been contacted by witnesses whose statements may yield new information on the case that sent Dennis Stockton to his death. Although the full import of this evidence is not yet known, it already points with substantial likelihood to the probability that the murder in this case actually took place in North Carolina. Thus, Virginia should never have had jurisdiction to put Stockton on trial, leave alone put him to death. The newspaper of record in this case, The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, through Dead Run's co-author, William F. Burke, Jr., which has done a remarkable reporting job for many years, is pursuing these new leads aggressively and will run news stories on them, as events and findings warrant.
All this suggests that the authors (and Walker & Company, which will publish future editions) may be able to publish a more definitive account/solution of the case than was possible in the hardcover edition, so please do watch for Walker's up-to-date trade paperback edition in the fall of 2000. Dennis Stockton could be vindicated, albeit posthumously, scrutiny could finally fall on the true culprit(s), and Virginia could be shown to have never had jurisdiction. Amazing, huh?
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