The Last Lawyer


winner of the 2010 Scribes Award from the Society of Legal Writers

(click on book jacket to order)


"The book delves into a tangled web of death-penalty jurisprudence, where judges and prosecutors look all too human and life-or-death decisions sometimes hang on hapless defense attorneys.”

“High drama in Raleigh penitentiaries, North Carolina backroads, cramped law offices, and sweltering courtrooms. Investigators, criminals, judges, witnesses, and attorneys are all finely, vividly drawn in this disturbing account… A stand-up-and cheer account of one man standing up for justice.”

“Temple really gets it. He really, really gets it. If you read only one book in your life about what it’s like to be a criminal defense lawyer, read this one.”

“An often-riveting account of an idealistic legal team fighting against the death penalty. John Temple's reasoned account of the case of Bo Jones, a North Carolina man sentenced to death for the murder of a store owner, is balanced and nuanced. It reads more like a best-selling novel than a dry, blow-by-blow account.”

This book tells the true, inside story of how an idealistic attorney and his diverse team of investigators and lawyers fought to overturn a client's death sentence.Ken Rose has handled more capital appeals cases than almost any other attorney in the United States. The Last Lawyer chronicles Rose's decade-long defense of Bo Jones, a North Carolina farmhand convicted of a 1987 murder. Rose called it his most frustrating case in twenty-five years, and it was one that received scant attention from judges or journalists. The Jones case highlights the thorniest issues surrounding capital punishment, including inadequate defense, mental retardation, mental illness, and sketchy witness testimony. Yet for many years, Rose's advocacy gained no traction, and Bo Jones came within three days of his execution.

The book follows Rose through a decade of setbacks and triumphs as he gradually unearths the evidence he hopes will save his client's life. At the same time, Rose also single-handedly builds a nonprofit law firm that becomes a major force in the death penalty debate raging across the South. The Last Lawyer offers unprecedented access to the inner workings of a capital defense team. Based on four and a half years of behind-the-scenes reporting, The Last Lawyer relates one lawyer's fight for justice.
Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., writes: "John Temple's The Last Lawyer is a compulsively readable indictment of a fatally flawed system.  It reads like first-class legal fiction, but it's far more compelling because it is, tragically, legal fact."

More about the book:
  • Boston University Law School alumni magazine story.
  • WYEP-Pittsburgh interview.
  • J&MC Quarterly review.
  • Journal of Legal Education review.
  • Champion magazine review.
  • C-SPAN interview.
  • Independent weekly review.
  • Raleigh News & Observer story.
  • Aggravating Factors blog review.
  • Washington Post book blog post.
  • Freedom Book Club BOM choice.
  • Chapel Hill News story.
  • Publishers Weekly review.
  • The Criminal Lawyer blog review.
  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story.
  • WV Public Radio interview.
  • Webcast of Nov. 12 book launch at WVU law school.
  • Charleston Gazette story.
  • Charleston Daily Mail story.
  • West Virginia Record story.
  • Daily Athenaeum story.

Additional writings about The Last Lawyer:

Read post on criminal defense attorney Lea Bickerton's blog.
Read post on true-crime author Laura James's blog.
Read post on News & Observer blog.
Read my guest post on Concurring Opinions blog.
Read my guest post on Executed Today blog.
Read my guest post on American Constitutional Society blog.
Read my guest post and a review on blog about IQ and the death penalty.
Read Q&A on Millenial Prof blog.
Read post by my former student on The Bread Line blog.

Click on photos:

Ken Rose Levon Mark Kleinschmidt

     Ken            Bo              Mark